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Aquatic Center Ran $38,000 Deficit Last Fiscal Year

A budget statement for the new Aquatic Center shows that in the 2011-12 fiscal year it lost less money than what was previously expected.

The lost just over $38,000 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to a budget statement provided by the .

The budget statement, which Albany Patch requested, indicates the pool brought in approximately $300,000 in revenue, but incurred about $338,000 in costs.

The difference was covered by money from the school district's general fund, as indicated in the third line of the budget statement. (See the full budget statement to the right.)

Though the Aquatic Center is losing money, a projected a much greater budget shortfall, between $78,000 and $166,000.

In a , Assistant Superintendent Laurie Harden said the new Aquatic Center had been in the red approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per month over the past four to five months. 

At that time, Harden said the financial picture could begin to improve with increased revenue during the summer months.

Albany Patch requested a monthly breakdown of revenues and expenditures, but Aquatic Center Director Amanda Garcia said the information would not be available until September. 

Harden cautioned that it is difficult to judge the financial situation of the Aquatic Center at the moment because there is no historical data to use as a comparison. As such, she said she could not predict whether the pool was .

“We’re always concerned about the deficit, but until we have some solid data, we can’t really make any projections,” she said.

The budget statement for the 2011-12 fiscal year shows that a majority of the expenses, about $240,000, goes to staffing.

According to Garcia, there are six head lifeguards and about 40 other lifeguards and swim instructors, many of whom are Albany High students.

“With the size of the pool and the number of classes we offer, it’s just enough staff,” she said.

On the budget statement, “Other Fees” accounts for about $299,000 of revenue. “Other Fees” includes the revenue from swim lessons, recreational use and the pool’s other programs, but there is no explanation as to how that $299,000 is divided.

Though Garcia said she couldn’t provide an exact breakdown of the revenue brought in by each individual program until September, she did speak in general terms about efforts to decrease the Aquatic Center’s deficit.

Swim lessons, which during the summer are offered both in the morning and the afternoon, make up a large chunk of the pool’s revenue, she said.

“We’re trying to fit as many lessons in the pool as we can with the way the pool is structured, and still make sure it’s safe,” she said.

Garcia also succeeded in drawing three Piedmont Swim Team coaches to Albany to , which will use the pool starting Sept. 4.

This summer, the Piedmont Swim Team has been using the pool four afternoons a week. Though that agreement will end Aug. 9, the Piedmont High School water polo team will practice at the Albany pool this fall twice a week. 

Although Garcia did not provide exact numbers for how much these teams’ rentals of the Aquatic Center will help boost revenue, she said it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Two other factors that have been helping to offset costs are the Aquatic Center’s solar panels and cogeneration unit.

The cogeneration unit burns natural gas, which produces electricity and heat. This heat is then recycled back to warm the outdoor pool, cutting costs normally required to keep the water at its target temperature of 79 degrees. 

Garcia said the cogeneration unit—the same one used by the old Albany Pool—is so efficient that it often keeps the outdoor pool well above 80 degrees. Consequently, the Aquatic Center rarely needs to cover the cost of heating the outdoor pool.

The budget statement shows that gas and electric utilities cost slightly less than $30,000 last fiscal year, but neither Garcia nor Harden knew how much money the solar panels and cogeneration unit saved. 

According to Garcia, it’s possible that at some point in the far future the Aquatic Center will use the heat from the cogeneration unit to warm the outdoor pool as well as the indoor pool, which is kept between 83 and 85 degrees. 

The after Berkeley High’s warm pool—kept at about 92 degrees—closed in December 2011, but the Albany pool’s temperature is unlikely to change.

“We’re pretty firm on where we’re going to keep the temperature of the pool,” said Garcia. “We feel it’s the best for the all the activities we offer.”

One thing that may change as soon as next calendar year is the pricing structure, according to Garcia.

She said she originally set the Aquatic Center’s fees on the lower end in hopes of attracting new pool users to check out the facility. 

But to help close the gap between costs and revenue, Garcia said one option might be to raise prices slightly to a level comparable to other nearby facilities.

While the Aquatic Center ran a deficit for its first five months in operation, Harden noted that some of the costs in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget statement were for startup supplies that will not need to be purchased next year, and Garcia shared a similar sentiment.

“The bond didn’t cover a lot of the things integral to running a pool,” she said. “No matter how much I argue that uniforms for lifeguards are necessary for the pool to function, that kind of thing wasn’t covered by it.”

Garcia stressed that, while she is keeping the budget in mind, her ultimate goal is to meet residents’ needs.

“Really it’s their community pool, and we’re trying to make sure we can provide a program that can support all the things they want,” she said.

What do you think about the pool's financial status? Is it serving the community's needs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an alert when we write .

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Alan Eckert August 14, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Are there additional use fees for school program that are included in that revenue, or is the deficit just the AUSD's share of the cost?
Jack Osborne August 14, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Regardless of other comments, I still don't see how the pool is sustainable at a loss - which I believe has long been projected - without taking away substantial funds for an already underfunded school district. Any answers out there?
Michael Barnes August 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Jack, I served on the AUSD board from 2002-06. We had swings in state spending then, too, although not as big as the last dip. I suspect the old pool also operated at a loss, but it's hard know. In any case, there was never any suggestion of closing and reopening the pool in coordination with the business cycle. Nor did we consider shutting down the sports activities on Cougar Field or the gym. The pool is also a classroom. Swimming is a life skill in addition to being a popular HS sport. No one considers classrooms to be profit centers.
Anita Goldstein August 15, 2012 at 12:02 AM
I am thrilled that there is so much interest and intelligent conversation being generated about the pool. It was a very happy day for many of us when the pool re-opened -- and the number of people who are attending the man/Wed classes is an acknowledgement of Laura's teaching skills and dedication as well as to the great benefits that water exercise offer. I"ll bet that if there were Friday morning classes they would be well-attended too. I love that -- during the summer at least -- there's open swim onTues/Thurs mornings and that those kids two and over are being introduced to a 'sport' that can give them pleasure throughout their lives. The Albany Aquatic Center - and the tennis courts and Cougar field and the gym and the nearby lawns that are used for summer camps are a testament to a living and growing and healthy commuinty
Steven Lau August 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Amanda Garcia said that AUSD uses of the pool don't bring in any revenue, but the cost of the lifeguards needed for the time students are in the water is part of the pool's expenditures. She said she is keeping track of the cost incurred from AUSD use of the pool, but said the numbers aren't available right now.
Peggy McQuaid August 15, 2012 at 02:20 AM
The hours the pool is used by AUSD it is not available for revenue producing programs. That fact needs to be factored into the financial report. It is not adequate to simply say the cost of the lifeguards and instructors needed for the time students are in the water is part of the pool's expenditures. Those costs should be charged to the cost of the AUSD program. This doesn't mean money changes from one account to another, it is only a paper transfer but it will give a better picture of pool finances..
Tatter Salad August 15, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Answer for helping our 'already underfunded school district' to help the $38,000 short fall. Sure, easy: give a 6% pay cut to our District Administrator and her Assistant, and you've covered the short fall.
Ira Sharenow August 15, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I noticed that on tonight’s agenda, page 69, there are over $150,000 in pool costs. Does anyone know what that is about? How much Measure E money has been spent so far? http://ausdk12.org/ourpages/auto/2012/1/9/45597896/8-14-12%20Agenda%20Packet.pdf Page 107 mentions increased fees. I wonder how that will work out. Pages 78-81 allow for the borrowing of as much as $3,000,000. When is the next parcel tax vote going to be? This site has some useful economic documents. Just enter Albany Unified School District. http://emma.msrb.org/default.aspx
a August 15, 2012 at 05:35 AM
We were so thrilled when the pool opened. We want to support AUSD and walk to swim lessons. However, the sign-up process is unfriendly (we were told no one would talk with us about which level to sign up for and to go home and go online and figure out out ourselves); the organization during swim lessons is not impressive (took 20 minutes out of a 30 minute lesson on the first day for staff to figure out which class my son was in); the recreational swim hours seem somewhat erratic (swimmers have been asked to leave before the posted closing time for the pool); and (final straw) our son's instructor did not use good judgment. My five year-old's instructor took him in the middle of a deep lane where he could not bob and told him to swim to the side, away from her. He started crying and went under and the instructor didn't notice until a staff person called to her twice from the side to grab him. We're assuming that's an anomaly, but we decided that we do not feel safe letting our kids take lessons there and went back to El Cerrito. I was glad that the staff members apologized on the spot, we receive a refund, and the director called me at my request to talk about what happened. I hope that the Aquatic Center improves. We would like to return.
Stephanie Travis August 15, 2012 at 06:31 AM
Swimming is a luxury, not an academic requirement. Unless you are competing at a statewide level, and even seldom then, do academic institutions care if you swim. I don’t see Albany planning on increasing taxes by $10 million to build tennis or basketball courts. When funding is cut schools, either permanently or temporarily, reduce or eliminate programs that are not core to their academic mission. When the Albany school board announced its highest priority for funding was a $10 million property tax to build two swimming pools, I realized the District’s academic needs were fully funded and signed up for the senior exemption from school parcel taxes. As we were paying almost $13,000 in property taxes, we were funding more than our fair share of taxes for the city and schools. The fact that the school board announced this tax increase two years after the real estate market collapsed and the country was on the verge of a massive recession, also made me realize the District must have millions in reserve in order to spend this $10 million tax on the luxury of swimming pools, and still weather the looming economic crisis without a need to cut academic programs
Stephanie Travis August 15, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Neither the School District or the City Council have made an effort to deal with Albany’s ongoing deficit problems because they know that tax increases are usually approved by Albany voters. This may change as parcel taxes can no longer be deducted from State and federal income taxes owed. With that change it is also likely parcel tax increases will be passed on to renters. Governor Brown, Alameda County and the City and School District of Albany, have said they will, or are considering, putting tax increases on the November ballot. Household budgets will be strained by these taxes, as they already have been by the massive increase in our Waste Management bills, negotiated by our City Council. Albany has thrown away $600,000, on a dust gathering report telling Golden Gate Fields what to do with its private property, half of which is in Berkeley; spent $50,000 on a consultant’s report on reorganizing city government, which was panned as useless by the City Council and the public; and used $15,000 of redevelopment funds for a consultant to come up with a city motto. The City’s only business plan is to permit the proliferation of nail salons.
Albany Rez August 15, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I don't want to undermine what the above poster experienced, but I'm a bit surprised that this happened at this pool of all places. My two kids, age 3 and 5, have been to the Albany pool about >50 times since it opened (we signed up the eldest for classes the first day they were available, and they've gone through multiple summer sessions and recreational swim time). If you go during rec swim times, there are several life-guards patrolling the different sections of the pool, more than I've seen at almost any other facility. And they are pretty careful to tell people not to jump from the sides, splash, wander more than an arm's length from an adult, or ride on the backs of their parents (not exactly sure why, but that's a rule too). I've had visitors joke about how fascist it seemed. I've seen them manage transferring classes over to the big outdoor pool when there was an "accident" in the indoor pool, and there were no issues, even though there were lots of young kids in an unfamiliar environment. The online system is a pain to figure out at first, but once you start your child in a class, it's pretty easy to figure out where they should go. For us, they've responded promptly to emails and phone calls, even with schedule changes. Maybe you unfortunately wound up with a new and clueless staff member? They are out there. Possibly try again with someone else, at a less busy time. My big gripe is the showers are very crowded after classes.
Albany Rez August 15, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Wasn't the old pool leaking and crumbling? And didn't the voters (not the school board) decide to spend $10 million in increased taxes on the pools?
Tatter Salad August 16, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Many school districts have a swimming requirement. While the origin goes back to the 1940's, the common sense necessity of it remains in place IMHO. For Alameda and San Franciso School Districts, it (has been) to stay afloat for at least 3-minutes (in a 'back-float'); Tread water for a minute, and to swim at least 50 feet in water over the swimmers head. I have seen in S.F. that schools without pools have been known to wave the testing altogether. Stephanie: If you consider swimming instruction a 'luxury', then where do you stand on street lights and sidewalks? (But pools aside, Stephanie, you're my hero with your comment: "Albany has thrown away $600,000, on a dust gathering report telling Golden Gate Fields what to do with its private property, half of which is in Berkeley; spent $50,000 on a consultant’s report on reorganizing city government, which was panned as useless by the City Council and the public; and used $15,000 of redevelopment funds for a consultant to come up with a city motto. The City’s only business plan is to permit the proliferation of nail salons.")
Michael Barnes August 16, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I have to agree with Tatter Salad and Stephanie on the fiscal issues, but don't forget our lovely 3% user utility tax on cell phone plans that the city imposes, even though it is the city's own cell tower policies that prevent our phones from work well, or in the case of AT&T phones, from working at all.
a August 16, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Albany Rez -- thanks for the post. We'd like to hear positive stories, since we'd really like to support the pool (especially given the deficit and our desire to support AUSD in general). Most of our friends have not had good experiences at the pool thus far (and many have left to other pools), so it's nice to have a counter balance. We're hoping it's all related to the fits and starts of getting the pool off the ground.
Ira Sharenow August 16, 2012 at 03:57 AM
As has been previously noted, the pool complex does not match what was promised to the voters at the time of the vote. Moreover a board member told me that the replacement pool would cost about $6 million. I assumed that the rest of the money would go to classrooms, after all we are talking about a school district. However, many changes occurred after the vote. Also the economy collapsed after the vote. The bonds were sold after the 2008 economic collapse. http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/02/05/ca/alm/meas/E/ (edited) In order to reconstruct and replace the Albany School District Community Pool (including showers, lockers and related facilities) to provide students and the community with adequate swimming facilities for school; adult school; athletic competition; recreational and community use, including therapeutic and instructional swim, with additional high school classrooms, shall the Albany Unified School District issue $10,000,000 in bonds at interest rates within the legal limit, and establish a Citizens' Oversight Committee to monitor all expenditures?
Ira Sharenow August 16, 2012 at 03:59 AM
A YES vote on Measure E will: • Replace Albany Pool with two indoor pools: one competition pool and one smaller warm pool. • Build up to five new classrooms for Albany High School and after-school community use. • Replace the outdoor Albany High School food service area with indoor food service and seating. By approval of this proposition by at least 55% of the registered voters voting on the proposition, the Albany Unified School District shall be authorized to issue and sell bonds of up to $10,000,000 in aggregate principal amount BOND PROJECT LIST Replace existing swimming pool with new swimming pool for student, adult school, athletic competition, and Albany community use Construct small therapy/instructional pool Furnish and equip constructed facilities Construct additional classrooms
Saul Geiser August 17, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Today's New York Times had a disturbing article about California school districts that used so-called "capital appreciation" bonds to finance capital projects: "Schools Pass Debt to the Next Generation." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/business/schools-pass-debt-to-the-next-generation.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper. In one example, a school district in San Diego used such a bond to borrow $105 million with no interest or principal payments for 20 years -- but with an eventual total cost of $877 million! While perhaps an extreme example, it's yet another instance of districts "kicking the can down the road," saddling the next generation with today's fiscal problems. Question: Does anyone on Patch know the details of Albany Unified School District's bond financing? (Ira Sharenow, are you there?)
Ira Sharenow August 17, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Saul, that is definitely an extreme example. AUSD is not even close. To find out the details go to http://emma.msrb.org/default.aspx and enter Albany Unified School District. You will see bonds of 7/10/2009. On page 11, you will see that for the pool the district borrowed $10,437,194.15. The first interest only payment was due February 1, 2010, so that was very timely. The first principal payment will be due on August 1, 2021, so it is only taking the school district an additional 11.5 years to start paying down the principal. http://emma.msrb.org/EA288297-EA5908-EA628309.pdf The total payback is just $18,409,202.69. A problem is the district used up its bonding capacity on the pool complex and so now may be short of bond capacity to do much needed repairs. http://ausdk12.org/ourpages/auto/2011/10/20/56901325/Annual%20Facilities%20Report.pdf When it comes to governance, apparently schools have a tradition of secrecy. http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/School-Safety-Data-Flawed-No-Oversight-165171666.html As the district stopped releasing its spreadsheet of expenses, it is tough to keep track of what is happening with the pool. For example, on the most recent agenda, over $100,000 in expenses are listed. It is my understanding that new accounting rules will require the school districts to start reporting on future expenses such as pensions. If so, we may soon get a better idea of just how big the next parcel tax will be.
Alan Riffer August 17, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Sure, I know quite a bit about the bond financing as a former member of the Measure E Bond Oversight Committee and member of the School Board when we passed the Measure that built the Middle School. What would you like to know? You know me off of Patch, so I urge you to call me so that we could frame a piece for Patch. Or we could have a dialog here, but it would be harder to do that effectively. I remember knowing that the Richmond Unified School District (as it was known then) was in big trouble 20 or so years ago when I read an article in our weekly Journal that they had sold 10 year notes to fund the annual salary increase for teachers. They needed the state bailout soon thereafter.
Saul Geiser August 17, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Thanks for your offer, Alan, but Ira seems to have answered my question with his usual blitz of references. Mr. Sharenow may not be everyone else's cup of tea, but I consider him a valuable community resource.
Stephanie Travis August 17, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Tater Salad: Many things were once provided at no or minimal cost to students’ families: nurses, school bus service, music lessons and instruments, athletic equipment and uniforms, etc. In the1970s passage of Prop.13 and the federal 504 Act, increased costs and reduced funding for education. Changing societal needs resulted in increased costs for computer labs and ESL classes, among many priorities. As funding became tighter alternative physical activities, which did not require the enormous costs of swimming pools, became popular. If someone can’t swim, and hasn’t friends or family who can teach them, there are places they can learn, like the Berkeley Y. When the housing market started to crash in 2006, and property taxes declined, it was illogical in 2008 for the School District and the City to push the building of expensive swimming facilities. Swimming is an optional activity, engaged in on an on-going basis by a comparatively small percentage of the population. Unless someone is agoraphobic, or housebound due to a medical condition, everyone uses the sidewalks and needs safe street lighting. Considering the bad state of both in Albany, I would have voted for a bond measure to improve their condition.
Peggy McQuaid August 17, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Aquatics is of the eight topic areas of physical education instruction required by the State of California for high school students (California Code of Regulations, Title 5)
Doctor Detroit August 17, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Currently residential sidewalks should be taken care of by adjacent property owners with partial reimbursement by the city. (http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=525) So the next time you see a terribly busted residential sidewalk, blame not the city, but the adjacent property owner for not shelling out the clams to work on it.
Charles Blanchard August 18, 2012 at 01:58 AM
California state PE standards can be found at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/peframework2009.pdf Aquatics is one of three units constituting the state's 9th-grade PE curriculum. Aquatics is also one of six units in the state's 11th-grade PE curriculum (not offered at AHS). As the state PE framework document states on page 120: "Providing aquatics instruction is a challenge for schools without a pool."
Ira Sharenow August 18, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Does anyone have the itemized expenditures for the Measure E project? I am looking for all costs – due diligence, bond insurance and other preliminary costs + two large pools + portables + moving dining area inside + anything else? I see that the district is looking to spend even more on the pool -- security system, PA system, raise fence. http://ausdk12.org/ourpages/auto/2011/10/20/56901325/Annual%20Facilities%20Report.pdf I would also be interested in knowing how,much time and space the PE classes take during a school year. http://ausdk12.org/ourpages/auto/2010/6/21/51125061/Fall%20Schedule.pdf Also whatever happened to that lawsuit relating to inadequate PE instruction in one of the other schools (I think Cornell)? What is the PE experience for the various grades? http://albany.patch.com/articles/from-the-superintendent-update-on-pe-lawsuit
Stephanie Travis August 18, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Dear Doctor Detroit: Thank you for your comment on the sidewalks. I was aware the homeowners are responsible for repair of "their " sidewalks, however, I was not aware the City would provide partial reimbursement. I assume the City pays for repairs to the sidewalks at corners, where there is the added expense of curb cuts. I said I would vote for a bond issue to pay for lighting and sidewalks in response to Tater Salad's query to me but also because I feel sidewalk repair is an expense that should be borne by the City as a whole, rather than the individual homeowner. Often the reason a sidewalk must be repaired, even the total expense that goes into a repair, is not the fault, or under control of the homeowner. I'm thinking in particular of sidewalk damage caused by trees the City has planted.
Stephanie Travis August 18, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Charles Blanchard: The State of California requires that in order to graduate from a public high school, the student must have two years of physical education. It leaves to the individual school district what activities meet that requirement. Physical education is not a requirement for graduation from either CSU or UC, although CSU had that requirement until sometime in the early 1970s.
Emilie Raguso September 24, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Albany Patch is preparing a list of questions from readers for school board candidates. We've scheduled, in conjunction with St. Alban's, candidate forums in October. (BOE: Oct. 10; CC: Oct. 17) Details here: http://patch.com/A-ybgT Please comment back ASAP to let us know your questions for school board candidates, or email me at albany@patch.com.

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