SEASIDE — The in-district open swim fee for the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District pool is about to double.

The drop-in fee for district residents will go from 50 cents per swim to $1 beginning June 1. The fee for those living outside the district will increase from $2.50 to $3.50.

The cost of monthly open swim passes, however, will remain the same at $10 for in-district and $15 for out-of-district, said Mary Blake, the district’s general manager.

General admission for activities other than open swim will remain at $2.50 for in-district residents and $5 for those living outside the district.

Although several other fees were adjusted last year, the in-district open swim fee hasn’t been reviewed since 2005, when it was reduced from $2 to 50 cents.

At the time, Blake said, the economy was heading for a downturn. A patron suggested that the district institute a “magic card,” providing free swims for those living within the district’s boundaries and paying property taxes to support the district.

The boundaries generally follow the Seaside School District boundaries, but Gearhart and most of Cannon Beach are outside the district.

Although the district couldn’t offer its services for free, Blake said, a residents card was offered for some activities. Individual drop-in fees based on age also were eliminated.

If some incentive wasn’t offered during the economic downturn, Blake said, “We felt we really would lose our clientele.”

More people are participating in open swims, but there’s a limit to how many people can do lap swims because individual lanes have to be designated in the pool, Blake said. The $2.50 general admission fee for residents and $5 fee for out-of-district patrons help to offset the pool’s operation, she added.

Last year, the district increased fees for swim instruction and drop-in fees for aquatics classes. Registration for classes also was required, and teachers were not available for classes that failed to meet a six-member minimum.

Blake provided a survey of 15 other recreation districts with pools in Oregon, which shows that Seaside has the lowest general admission fee for in-district residents.

While Seaside’s general admission is $2.50, other districts’ fees range from $10 at Kahneeta to $2.75 in Lincoln City and Lebanon. Astoria’s fee is $6.50 for both in- and out-of-district residents.

Blake, who is retiring June 12, said she expects incoming general manager Justin Cutler will analyze the district’s programs and fee structure and talk to community residents to determine if changes are necessary.

Critics of the district’s fee policies have long held that the district shouldn’t charge any fees to property owners paying taxes to the district. But Blake has countered that the cost to operate the facility and provide services, which will be $2.25 million for 2012-13, could not be sustained using taxes.

Taxes currently pay about 80 percent of the costs. The ratio of support should be about 70 percent taxes and 30 percent nontax revenue, including fees, Blake said.


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