Calling all swimmers

POULSBO — It’s no easy feat to raise $350,000 in a few months.

But that’s the sum that must be raised by mid-August to ensure the North Kitsap Community Pool will remain open for another year.

Pool Manager Greg Schmidt said it costs half a million each year to operate the pool, which generates a little more than $200,000 in revenue, therefore $350,000 is needed each year in subsidies.

The pool is funded through the end of the fiscal year Aug. 31.

However, that’s when the funding dries up.

The North Kitsap School District, which operates and funds the pool, has its own $2.8 million budget shortfall to fill.

And one alternative to narrowing the budget’s gaping hole is to close the community pool or drastically reduce its services.

“If we cannot raise $350,000 ultimately before Aug. 31, then it’s most likely the pool will be closed,” said Mark Vanhuis, assistant manager. “If that’s not raised it’s closed, as it stands right now it’s not in the district budget.”

No final decision to close the pool has been reached, said NKSD Board President Melanie Mohler. She said budget decisions will be made at the July 10 meeting. If a decision to close the pool is reached it would go into effect Sept. 1.

A possible pool closure is a sad and unfortunate reality for the entire community, especially because the pool is bringing in record numbers and having one of its best years yet, Schmidt said.

“This has been our most productive year ever,” he said. “The pool is doing better than it ever has. We’re having a really great year.”

Schmidt said the pool’s on track to bring in $215,000 in revenue, swimming lesson participation is up 95 percent compared to the fall session and more than 200 individuals frequent the pool each week for water aerobics and swimming lessons.

The competitive programs, which are the pool’s niche market, are also on the rise. A total of 69 competitive swimmers take advantage of the pool, seven are on the diving team, 19 are on the Water Blossoms synchronized swimming team and the remainder make up the swim teams.

Another way the pool serves the community is that of safety, as the North End is entirely surrounded by water and learning to swim is a necessity.

“It’s a life skill that needs to be taught,” Vanhuis said.

Schmidt said he is frustrated with the situation, but he understands it. The school district or the board is not to fault, he said, the money is just not there.

But the nail in the coffin is time. Schmidt said if the pool could just have a few more years it would survive.

“If we can find enough money to tide us over for a few years then we’d be fine,” he said.

As a means to hammer out financial solutions and some much-needed funding, a joint NKSD and Central Kitsap School District task force has been meeting regularly. CKSD is in the same situation with its pool.

Unfortunately there’s no golden goose solution and the best idea yet is to form a metropolitan park district, Schmidt said.

A metropolitan park district is a junior taxing district that has taxing authority through property tax. The Bainbridge pool is successfully operated under a metropolitan park district.

But that possible solution is all for naught to save the pool this year, as it requires a lot of time and effort to set up the district.

Another more feasible solution is to simply raise the funds through community support.

“It’s a community pool, which means the school district should not have to bare the entire burden of the budget,” Vanhuis said. “The community needs to step up.”

One group has already heeded the community call and organized a 501c3 tax deductible fundraiser — Save Our Pool.

Andrew Sargent and Randy Borek spearheaded the effort because the pool is essential to preserve the area’s quality of life.

“If you go to the pool you see all the kids there, it’s just an invaluable resource,” Sargent said. “It supports our home prices and the whole ambience of North Kitsap that we all enjoy.”

The fundraiser has already raised $1,100 in one week, and that’s without the community knowing about it, Sargent said.

The aim of the fundraiser is two-fold. Sargent said the short-term goal is to raise enough money to keep the pool open for the next 12 months, and the long-term hope is to establish permanent financing for the pool.

Sargent hopes if the committee raises a portion of the funds by Aug. 1 the NKSD board will keep the pool open for as long as the raised funds will support the pool. And with the extra time the committee will keep raising money.

Sargent used $100,000 as a hypothetical.

“If we have $100,000 that will fund the pool for four to five months so let’s keep it open,” he said. “We don’t have to do this in two months, but over a whole year.”

Mohler is hesitant about keeping the pool open for a few extra months if funds are there to support it and said she doesn’t even know if that’s feasible.

“It depends on how much they’re able to raise,” she said. “I think we’d have to see what those numbers are. I’ll be curious to see what they can come up with.”

Sargent, on the other hand, is certain they’ll raise the magic number.

“This is moving quite rapidly,” he said. “I think we’re going to do it. In my mind it’s a done deal.”

To donate to the Save Our Pool e-mail or checks made out to the Save Our Pool fund may be mailed to P.O. Box 1284 Poulsbo, WA 98370.

If the pool closes all donations will be returned.

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