By an 11-0 vote Monday night, the Rolla City Council voted to use proceeds from the half-cent recreation sales tax to cover the $258,324 loss at The Centre in fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30.
Parks and Recreation Center Director Scott Caron said The Centre’s “recapture rate” was down to 80 percent for fiscal year 2012. That rate refers to the amount of operating expenses covered by the recreation center’s membership fees and program charges.
Caron said membership has dropped from 2,300 to about 1,750 since 2009. He attributed about half that number to the addition of a student recreation center at Missouri S&T, which drew university students, faculty and staff members away from The Centre. The other half of that loss is likely to Anytime Fitness, which opened a 24-hour facility in the shopping center at the junction of Highways 63 and 72.
Although The Centre has reduced staff and other expenses, those reductions were not enough to come close to allowing revenues to cover the expenses and put the recapture rate into the 90-percent bracket.
Finance Director Steffanie D. Rogers, in her agenda commentary regarding the transfer of money, noted the transfer is allowed by the Rolla City Code.
“Any remaining sales tax proceeds, beyond the prescribed debt service schedule and the depreciation reserve and equipment replacement account deposit prescribed herein, will remain in the recreation center and pool fund until released by formal council action or a future vote of the citizens of Rolla,” Rogers wrote, quoting Section 13-31 of the city code.
Other money was also transferred earlier to cover expenses at The Centre.
“During the budget process, council authorized capital purchases, energy efficiency financing and the General Fund administrative transfer. Since these items received prior approval, the funds transfer has already taken place,” she wrote.
Councilman Gary Hicks questioned Caron about whether any of the transfer would be used to pay for other park expenses. Caron assured him it was only for The Centre.
City Administrator John Butz told the council The Centre generated $1.1 million but had expenses of between $1.3 million and $1.4 million. Butz said it is important to note that the $1.1 million raised, primarily through membership fees, is a solid indication that The Centre has been “received so well by the community.”
Councilman Louis Magdits said the shortage could be covered if members paid about $10 more per month for their fees, but Caron said it is likely the number of members would drop further if the fees were raised that much.
In a follow-up interview Tuesday, Butz acknowledged that it would be correct to expect The Centre members to pay a higher membership fee than that charged by private fitness centers because The Centre offers more, such as indoor swimming year-round, an indoor walking track and basketball/volleyball courts.
Page 2 of 2 - He said the private centers seem to use The Centre as a benchmark, raising their fees whenever The Centre raises fees, so getting a gap between them will be difficult even if the city raises the membership fee, as suggested by Magdits.
More important, Butz said, a significant number of members pay their fees regularly but use the facility irregularly. Those individuals may be people who intend to use the facility regularly but don’t, due to more pressing matters in their lives, but it’s also likely many of those irregular users are loyal supporters, pleased to support Rolla’s having a recreation center even though they don’t use it themselves on a regular schedule.
Raising the fee 20 percent to cover the shortage could result in some of those supporters ending their support of The Centre, Butz said.
He acknowledged he was disappointed that the recapture rate had dropped to 80 percent from the 88-94 percent range. He attributed that drop not only to the additional facilities, but also to the economic problems affecting the entire country.
There is some hope for next year, though, he said, for salary expenses were cut with early retirements and the consolidation of the parks directorate and recreation directorate into one job.
“Next year the recapture rate should be significantly higher,” Butz said.