Bridging budget gap
The University of Idaho Swim Center promotes healthy lifestyles through aquatics and provides a safe environment for campus and community user groups, University Support Services Director Rob Anderson said.
But that mission might be curtailed by an $11,000 funding deficit, which is why Anderson and USS Aquatics Manager Dan Lawson are turning to faculty and staff to bridge the budget gap.
The pair sought Faculty Senate support Tuesday for a proposal requesting UI staff and faculty to purchase recreational swim passes beginning in January.
The UI Swim Center is open seven days a week and has two 25-yard pools.
Lawson said community members, UI students, faculty and staff utilize the facilities for open swim, lifeguard training, a water safety instructor course and a kayaking class offered through the UI Outdoor Recreation program. Students also use the swim center for courses such as scuba and deep water conditioning. The UI water polo club, Vandal swim and dive, high school swim, Gold Medal swim and Master swim teams all depend on the aquatic center as well.
The swim center doesn’t receive a subsidy from campus. Instead, funding comes from three sources — $5 a semester from each full-time UI student’s fees, the purchase of swim passes by community members and group-use charges.
Last year, student funding totaled $102,806, while the community contributed $96,193.
During the spring 2012 semester, 9,466 community members and 7,170 UI students used the swim center. Although an additional 2,160 faculty and staff utilized the facilities, accounting for 11 percent of total attendance, their financial contribution was zero.
The swim center originally received $11,000 from the Wellness Dollars program, part of a benefit package for UI employees. Anderson said a small portion of each paycheck was put into a common fund and dispersed out to organizations on campus, including the Student Recreation Center wellness program.
“That $11,000 was an arbitrary amount we received from the budget office,” he said. “But it’s what they could afford and it really helped offset the cost.”
Anderson said the swim center stopped receiving wellness dollar funding around December 2010.
He said $11,000 is a great start to bridging the budget gap.
“Technically 11 percent of use would total a $22,000 contribution, but we’ll do the best we can,” Anderson said.
He said it would be ideal to have everybody work out for free, but it’s important that all users pay their fair share.
“Our whole world at University Support Services — I try to explain to people — is we have different budgets,” Anderson said. “You know, they’re a pie and everybody needs to contribute a slice.”
Anderson said he has a similar argument with people who call and ask USS to host events at little to no cost.
“I wish we could, but it’s just not the way we’re funded,” he said.
An annual pass for faculty and staff would cost $150, or $5.76 per two-week pay period, According to the proposal. It would cost $85 per semester and $45 for a 10-visit pass. Therefore, only those faculty and staff actually utilizing the swim center would be charged.
“It seems very reasonable,” Anderson said. “And we’ve looked at other universities. The vast majority charge faculty and staff to use their facilities.”
Faculty Senator Randall Teal brought up a concern that faculty and staff members might feel double-charged, as they already pay to use the SRC.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, what if we could pay for swimming alone, wellness alone or just pay for the gym and have all that included,’” Teal said.
Anderson said the problem is the SRC and USS are separate organizations.
Lawson and Anderson are giving a series of informational presentations to different campus constituencies — their next stop is the Staff Affairs Committee.
“It’s more about information and dialogue and gaining support from different groups, just in case there’s something we’re missing,” Anderson said.
He said this specific proposal was created to ensure fairness to students.
“I want to be able to look the students in the eye … and tell them their fees are being matched by other users,” he said.
Britt Kiser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org