In a 2016 budget work session on Wednesday, Deputy Director for Recreation Laura Kowalski presented several cost-savings options to the board.
The board opted to move forward with two of them: to change seven pools to weekends-only from Memorial Day until the last day of school in June, and to change the number of pools open from mid-August to Labor Day from eight to four.
Reston Association has 15 outdoor pools that cost about $1.6 million annually to administer and staff. They also take in upwards of $800,000 in revenue, according to RA documents.
Changing to the weekends-only schedule early in the season would save about $10,000 annually, RA estimates. Reducing the number of pools open in late August would save about $14,000.
RA’s Board will vote on the final budget and set next year’s assessment in November.
The board opted to leave early morning and late evening swim hours at North Shore and Lake Thoreau pools in place, as well as keep North Shore and Ridge Heights open before Memorial Day and past Labor Day. It also will keep offering free sunscreen.
“I think having a longer pool season adds to the value of the pool pass,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Senior Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources.
A suggestion put to the board was shutting down the least-used pool in each district: Shadowood in Hunters Woods/Dogwood; Tall Oaks in Lake Anne/Tall Oaks; Autumnwood in North Point; and Newbridge in South Lakes.
Autumnwood has had an average of 10,165 visitors per summer over the last five years; Shadowood, 3,542; Newbridge, 4,211; and Tall Oaks, 4,587.
Closing each pool would save RA from $47,116 to $59,849 per pool annually, but that would only result in a savings of less than $3 on annual assessments, RA estimates show.
Butler explained it is not that easy to close a pool. When the former Lake Anne Pool was turned into a park over a decade ago, there was much discussion with Fairfax County, as well as large expense, said Butler.
“You have to get determination for zoning,” said Butler. “When Lake Anne [Pool] closed, the development plan specified ‘pool/tennis.’ The county said you had to replace it with something equivalent. You can’t just close it, bulldoze it and walk away.”
Butler said it cost RA about $700,000 to repurpose Lake Anne Pool into a park. He added that $40,000 was in demolition costs alone.
Board members said closing pools is a tough subject that is worthy of more discussion, but not as a means of keeping assessments down. They said it should be part of a future bigger discussion on facilities and long-range planning.
“Some pools are just not getting utilized and it is costing us,” said At-Large member Michael Sanio. “We have to look at what the opportunities are for savings.”
Some of the other suggestions: Save Tall Oaks for a joint investment opportunity when the Jefferson Apartment Group redevelops the nearby Tall Oaks Village Center; encourage pool rentals to groups and corporations to increase revenue; and consolidating staffing, operations and schedules among pools located close together.