Dedicated Hutchins Street Square pool users told the Lodi Recreation Commission on Tuesday that they were fine with a proposed rate hike if it will save classes people depend on.
The city has struggled for years with the pool's deficit. For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the Hutchins pool cost $210,000, but only had $65,000 in revenue, resulting in a loss of $145,000, said Jeff Hood, interim Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director.
The city plans to cut the deficit by raising fees and cutting hours.
Adult passes will increase from $3.75 per swim for a Lodi resident to $4.75. Senior and disabled prices will go from $2.50 to $3.50 for Lodi residents. This will be the first pool rate hike for Hutchins in eight years.
In a 3-0 vote, the commission approved the new fee schedule. The Lodi City Council still has to approve the new fees, and plans to discuss it at a meeting in August.
Starting June 11, the pool will also be closed starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and will no longer be open on Saturdays. Hood said the department looked at daily attendance rates for a 10-week period and drafted six schedules before deciding on one.
Hood said the city should save between $20,000 to $25,000 with fewer hours, and increase revenue by $30,000 to $35,000 with the fees.
The important thing with the cost savings is that the city needs to start somewhere to reduce the gap between revenue and expenses, Hood said. In the last three years, the department went from 38 to 29 employees, and hours at all other public buildings throughout the city have been cut.
"I don't mind spending money on keeping the pool operating. I don't mind subsidizing the pool, but we have to have a target to reach," Hood said.
Commission chair Barbara Wardrobe-Fox said she would like to see the city charge more for swim classes with an instructor. Right now, the price is the same regardless of whether a person is in the arthritis class or swmming laps.
After coming to the pool for the last decade, Lodi resident Henry Wright said he would be willing to pay more for a class with an instructor. He said none of the swimmers have protested the increase.
Lodi resident Gayle McBride said the swimmers at the pool have been brainstorming ideas and suggested a $1,000 or more donor card for those who can afford it. They would get a year worth of swimming and be able to contribute at the same time, McBride said. But all of the swimmers agree the money should be put toward paying for classes.
Hood said he would have to explore options to see if money can be earmarked to pay for services.
McBride also said pool users would be willing to fundraise if they had someone to lead them and explain any requirements or restrictions.
In other communities, pools have been closed because of costs, Hood said. Recently, he went to Ione, where there was a "Save the Pool" fund drive. Commissioner Larry Long also said he called around to other cities and discovered pools were closing.
Stockton resident Crystal Melera often comes to the pool with her blind mother. She suggested the city find a way to make sure people are paying for every class they attend. Melera said some people will stay in the water for multiple classes in a row.
"I was shocked to know that you can stay all day without paying two fees," she said.
While it is important to get public input, Wardrobe-Fox said in the end, the commission has to look at the entire budget.
"We take the responsibility of being prudent with the public tax dollars to heart," she said.