by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Sanibel City Council members deliberated a proposed 25 percent increase for the Recreation Center’s after-school program fee to make it viable for the upcoming school year. Instead, council members agreed to only accept registration for the fall trimester at the current rate and reassess any fee increases.
Mayor Kevin Ruane said the compromise would give the city a clearer picture on enrollment and any continued effects of COVID-19. “The Recreation Center has been the one item we clearly underestimated the desire or, from the emails we had, not having a true representation of what was needed.”
Since reopening on June 15, the Recreation Center has suffered low revenue collections due to the lower-than-expected demand. The updated projected revenue of $36,000 is 50.4 percent less than the original projection of $71,441 through the end of July. That includes a maximum of nearly $10,000 in revenue from the LeeCares scholarship program for the youth summer camp.
There was an estimation of 63 youth participants per week for the summer camp, but just 39 registered. Six families, totaling nine children, used LeeCares – a surprisingly low number to the council members. Three additional families received financial assistance through the city’s program and one family received assistance from FISH of SANCAP.
However, it would have been the families who do not qualify for financial assistance that would have felt the significant fee increase. City Manager Judie Zimomra recognized that was a major downside to the proposal, saying those families make up the largest group and it could price them out. “If they are Recreation Center members and register on time, the fee would go from $1,224 to $1,530 for the school year,” she said.
Councilman Jason Maughan said the $25,000 to $30,000 generated from the fee increase through the remainder of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) “doesn’t do so much good to the budget that it offsets the hurt it will do to the community.” He called the decision to open registration for the fall trimester instead of the full school year at the current rate a “better compromise.”
Registration for the after-school program opened Friday, July 17 and it will commence on the first day of in-school classes at The Sanibel School. There is an estimated enrollment of 54 students for a maximum operating cost of $286,771 from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30.
Additionally, utilization of the Recreation Center fitness facilities since its reopening in June has been as follows: the weight room at 70 percent capacity; lap pool at 90 percent capacity; and tennis courts at 10 percent capacity. There has been a two percent no-show rate on reservations.
Since reopening, there have been 385 “A” parking permits, totaling $6,885, and 29 dog licenses, totaling $283, sold. The original projected cost of Phase 1 reopening was $272,038 which is 21 percent more than the updated estimation of $214,585.