Guest Opinion: You can’t have a private gym and call it a public pool

I have read countless letters to the editor on why we supposedly need to force people to pay taxes to “save the SARC.” Most of these letters discuss the need to “save the pool.” SARC board members have often pointed out that other “public pools” receive tax subsidies as part of their revenue.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014 4:56pm
  • Opinion

I have read countless letters to the editor on why we supposedly need to force people to pay taxes to “save the SARC.” Most of these letters discuss the need to “save the pool.” SARC board members have often pointed out that other “public pools” receive tax subsidies as part of their revenue.

But we aren’t voting on whether or not the taxpayers in Clallam County should help fund a public pool in Sequim. We are voting on whether or not we should subsidize what has become a private gym.

SARC claims to have 3,000 members. Many of these members asked for more equipment and classes, with lower fees. SARC obliged and now projects a continued budget deficit of close to $100,000 a year. The board states that if they ask their current members to pay more in in fees, they may lose those who could not afford the increase.

Ironically, if the SARC levy passes, many of those members could pay close to that increase anyway, but in the form of a tax.

Consider this: If the yearly deficit of $100,000 were divided by the current 3,000 members, it would amount to $33.33 per year or $2.77 per month. This is very close to the amount that SARC claims is affordable for every home owner in Clallam County, whether they use SARC or not.

It’s interesting that they feel it’s affordable as a tax increase to an already heavy tax burden, but it’s not affordable as a membership increase to those who use the SARC.

SARC’s website emphasizes needing additional funds for structural repairs, including upgrades to the pool. What taxpayers may not know, however, is that SARC plans on spending at least $300,000 in upgrading and repairing exercise equipment, including equipment that was purchased less than a decade ago.

That is an excessive allotted amount and it creates an unfair competitive advantage over other fitness facilities in Clallam County.

Instead of using surplus funds to fix the current structural problems, SARC added new equipment and classes after privately funded businesses already were affordably providing those things.

Adding classes and equipment has increased costs and created a precedent that taxpayers should not be forced to maintain.

SARC tries to appease its members by seeking feedback on its social media page. A recent post said, “We are working to lower the rates … and improve our services.” What does that mean?

How is the SARC working to lower rates? Does that mean pleading with taxpayers to subsidize those rates and upgrade equipment?

To truly “work to lower rates and provide better service,” SARC should focus on the niche that they were created to be: a public pool and recreation center.

To work as a public facility, they should not shamelessly compete with private gyms.

To work to improve their image as family friendly, they should not try to appease the vocal members who don’t want to share the facility with children.

To WORK to keep things affordable for the community, they should not try to pass a levy.

Instead, they should charge a little more to SARC patrons who demand more.

If that was the WORK that the SARC board was doing, perhaps we could have a conversation about whether or not we should help fund a public pool and rec center.

Instead, the board is working to collect $2,600,000 from Clallam County taxpayers to subsidize what has been marketed as a private gym.

Only now, when the board wants public money, do they emphasize their public pool.

But since SARC refuses to cut back on other costly services and equipment, then this is not a vote about saving the pool.

This is a vote about saving SARC members increased dues, while allowing them an ever expanding facility. Vote no.

 

Kristin Lamoure is a Sequim resident and owner of Sequim Gym.

 

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