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The plight for the pool continues

NKSD board holds special session to continue discussions about the community pool, establishes an advisory committee.

POULSBO — As the countdown toward the final budget decision draws near, the North Kitsap School District board of directors is taking another go at saving the community pool.

On Monday the board held a special session to hear an update on the district’s development of a budget that includes keeping the pool open until Dec. 31 and to establish a Community Pool Advisory Committee (CPAC).

According to Superintendent Rick Jones, the CPAC will look at whether or not the pool can be sustainable, monitor and evaluate how to best keep the pool open until Dec. 31, look at and suggest long-term solutions, and develop a community pool business plan.

“We feel it’s important to get back together to continue the conversations,” Jones said. “It’s an important issue for the community and the board.”

Board Member Ed Strickland was the lone dissenting vote for the CPAC, which is consistent with his other votes concerning the pool.

Nancy Moffatt, NKSD director of Finance and Operations, first shared a promising update on the district’s revised budget.

Developing the tentative budget is a work in progress, but as it stood on Monday morning to whittle NKSD’s pool subsidy through Dec. 31 to $42,000, the pool’s assistant aquatics manager is resigning and his position won’t be filled, marking a reduction in staffing costs for NKSD. The pool will be closed at the slowest times of the day — 7:30-10 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. — when revenues don’t cover expenses. The pool’s accounting procedures will move to the district’s business office. Increases in pool use fees and athletics fees are proposed, but haven’t been adopted, and the tentative budget includes $25,000 from Save Our Pool and a potential $15,000 from the city of Poulsbo.

Moffatt had a meeting with the city’s Finance Committee last Wednesday and the “real positive” was learning the city is willing to allocate $15,000 for pool operations, contingent on the board’s willingness to purchase a pool blanket. A pool blanket would retain the heat in the water, reducing energy costs.

Moffatt said if the board moves forward with the pool blanket, the city’s Finance Committee would recommend the $15,000 pool expenditure to the city council.

“The city Finance Committee meeting went really well,” Moffatt said. “They are very supportive and would ideally like to see additional partnerships with us in the future.”

Much board discussion centered on increasing athletics fees, which won’t go toward helping the pool’s operations, but instead to cover the athletic program’s costs. At which point Strickland asked what that has to do with the pool budget.

The answer: That’s what the CPAC will look into.

Strickland fired another round.

“The real question is, is the school district being responsible in running a swimming pool?” he said.

However, that’s a policy question and went unanswered.

Strickland also wondered if summer is the quarter in which the pool receives the most use, why then isn’t summer the quarter the district keeps the pool open instead of September through December? The time frame Strickland suggested encompasses the girls’ swim season.

Pool manager Gregg Schmidt provided an answer. He said the pool has a steady flow of lesson traffic throughout the year and it takes more than one lesson session to learn how to swim, and a year-round pool program is necessary “to keep people water safe.”

The answer wasn’t satisfactory, and Strickland launched into the meaning of “water safety.”

“People who don’t know how to swim drown far less than people who do know how to swim because they wear life vests or don’t go out to swim,” Strickland countered. “So how do you define water safety.”

Ultimately that’s another quandary for the CPAC to solve.

Questions about the district’s use of the pool for physical education curriculum also surfaced, as did the possibility of lowering the pool’s temperature.

“The pool temperature is 85 degrees,” Tom Anderson said. “Can we drop that a few degrees, immediately?”

But what it really funneled down to is, was Moffatt comfortable with the tentative $42,000 the district will spend to subsidize the pool through Dec. 31.

The answer isn’t a quest for the CPAC, but enrollment, which drives all NKSD revenues and expenditures.

Moffatt said if projected enrollment proves to be true come September then she’s fine with the pool subsidy, but if enrollment is short, that changes everything.

“If enrollment comes in where we have projected, yes I am comfortable,” she said. “If for some reason it doesn’t come in then I see all bets are off at that point because we would be scrambling to cover all the costs we do have.”

The fate of the pool and the final budget will come to a head at the board’s Aug. 28 meeting, at which point they’ll vote on the final 2008-09 general fund budget. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the North Kitsap Student Support Center in the Board Room.

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