For many years running, the City of Crookston and Crookston School District have, each year, essentially split the operational budget deficit carried by the Crookston Community Swimming Pool, owned by the school district. Lately, the annual contribution from each entity has been in the $68,000 range.
School district officials have reached out to city officials this spring, however, in the hopes of modifying the arrangement. But, at a city council Ways & Means Committee meeting Monday evening, council members took no action on the request, which was meant to come across as a signal that they don't want modify the current agreement.
School Superintendent Chris Bates and Business Manager Laura Lyczewski met with City Administrator Tony Chladek last week to discuss the district's idea. Although a five-year agreement was initially discussed, it was reduced to three years in order to align with the lease agreement between the city and school district that allows the school district to use Crookston Sports Center. That agreement calls for an annual payment of $100,000, with inflationary increases. The plan put forth by Bates and Lyczewski would have the city put $68,000 toward the pool operations budget in 2013-14, $70,000 the year after that, and $72,000 the year after that.
While saying he understands the district's desire to have some consistency in their budget, At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye has no interest in modifying the current deal. Even if no one is comparing the city/school district arrangements for the CSC and pool, he said it's hard not to. "We don't get anything out of this. They lease the arena and they get lockers, they get ice time; we get nothing out of the pool," Melbye said. "Yes, we kick in money and the community wants the pool, but we get no input on that building or how it's run or how we could maybe do some things to reduce the deficit."
Mayor Dave Genereux disagreed somewhat with Melbye's contention, saying city officials attend pool advisory committee meetings and have input on the facility. "I don't want to get anyone upset," he added.
Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, citing the successful referendum vote that brings pool-specific revenue into the district's revenue ledger each year for the next eight years, said it seems "like a back door way for them to get more money from the taxpayers of Crookston."
Since the city's annual allocation to the pool is strictly to cover operating costs and is not a payment to use the facility, the city Parks & Recreation programs at the pool carry user fees, Parks & Rec Director Scott Riopelle said.
Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook wondered if balking at the school district's proposed changes would be a "double-edged" sword when it's time for the city and school district to negotiate the next CSC lease agreement. "This could come back and bite us," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - That prompted council members and Genereux to cite the quality partnerships and collaborations between the two entities, and the interest in continuing down that positive path. "I can see where they're coming from, but let's agree to disagree," Ward 3 Council Member Keith Mykleseth said. "We want to work with them; I think that's a given around this table. We like the relationship and we want to have the pool."