Hot days and perpetually sunny skies have driven up attendance at Park District of Oak Park pools this summer. But that spike will have only a minimal impact on the district's overall budget, Bill Hamilton, revenue facilities manager at Rehm Pool and Ridgeland Common, told park commissioners meeting last Thursday.
People are swarming to the pool this year, with 40,129 swimmers compared to 21,195 in 2004. That translates to $51,000 in total gate admission compared to $18,000 this time last year. Currently, pool pass revenues are $8,500 over budget. And the pools have not been closed a single day since they opened on Memorial Day weekend.
"Every day here has been well-attended, we haven't had any slow days for the most part," Hamilton said.
But being open all the time means expenses have gone up, Hamilton said. Because of the heat and use, pool water evaporates faster and they have used more chlorine and other chemicals. Most importantly, payroll has increased. Hamilton budgets for the pool to be closed about 10 to 12 days during the summer, so he is expecting to be significantly over budgeted payroll hours at the end of summer unless the weather breaks. Most of the extra expenses will hit at the end of the summer, said Kent Newton, the superintendent of business operations.
"We'll probably end up in the same position, budget-wise, when it's all said and done," Hamilton said. "Overall, the net won't be a huge increase. We're going to do much better [than last year] budget-wise, but our expenses to keep the pool operating are much increased."
Building a Foundation
Last week, park district Executive Director Gary Balling met with several people, including former board president Tim Kelly and Commissioner Mark Gartland, as the first step to developing a park district foundation.
The foundation will be developed mainly so the park district will have multiple funding sources, Balling said. Above the normal operating budget, "there's other things that come up from time to time that we need to provide for," Balling said. The foundation money will go toward creating camp scholarships and funding extraordinary projects such as special playground features or projects such as improving the gardens in Lindberg Park. The volunteers will also create a permanent endowment for the foundation.
The group will meet again in early September. They will call for volunteers and create a mission statement in October.
Closer on Barrie
Barrie Park is nearly complete and will officially open on Saturday, Sept. 10. The tot lot area is already open and the sports court and water reservoir are still being finished.
The opening event, called BarrieFest, begins at 2 p.m. with kickball, tug of war, a balloon toss and sack races during the afternoon, a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. and a movie, "Hook," at 7:30 p.m. Ice cream will be provided and families are encouraged to bring a plate of cookies for the baking contest and a picnic for themselves. Balling says he does not expect any more delays in opening the long-cratered park.
Compared to this point last year, park district finances are going well.
Pools are making a financial splash for another reason: the park district staggered the opening dates of the two pools this year to reduce payroll costs. Ridgeland Common opened full-time starting Memorial Day weekend, while Rehm didn't open full-time until mid-June, after the kids got out of school.
The "Bark in the Park" dogwalk event on Aug. 10, has also been successful, garnering many sponsors and becoming a new source of income, Newton said.
Additionally, the park district was able to collect more tax revenue this year, a relic from asking for more special recreation funding last year, he said. The way Cook County distributes funds means that this will also even out by December.
"At this point it's improving, but we haven't forecasted all the expenses for the rest of the year," Newton said. "There's no indication that we'll be below our budget."