The Saline Parks and Recreation department has laid off 50 of 52 part-time employees to slash spending by $290,000 since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan.
But with the Rec Center closing April 1, revenues are down by $360,000, leaving a $70,000 hole in the budget that will be filled using the $515,000 fund balance. This information comes from Parks and Recreation Director Carla Scruggs, who addressed Saline City Council Monday night during the budget work session.
“I’m pleased with how the numbers came out. We are fortunate compared to other facilities (in other communities),” Scruggs said, crediting the previous work done to build the fund balance. “We’ve worked hard to increase revenues and keep expenditures low.”
Scruggs spent nearly all of her time with council addressing the current budget. She said the rec center was in the midst of a strong year when it was struck by COVID-19.
“We were in really good shape, having a positive end of the year with strong membership numbers,” Scruggs said.
She said the new budget numbers are based on worst-case scenarios - not reopening the Rec Center - no new membership revenues, no drop-ins, no rentals, reduced class fees (some class are being offered online).
Cost-cutting measures include the elimination of some capital projects and laying off 50 part-time workers. The full-time staff continues, to work on projects in and outside the Rec Center. Project including painting and maintenance work, revamping policy and training manuals, and program planning.
Her presentation was in sharp contrast to city department heads Police Chief Jerrod Hart and DPW Director Jeff Fordice, both of whom focused on 2020-21 budget. Scruggs said she can’t forecast a budget without knowing when she can reopen. Gov. Whitmer's current order closes gyms until least May 28. Will she extend the order? If allowed to re-open, what guidelines will there be? And are members ready to return?
“Until we get back and see how things are moving, I can’t make an educated guess,” Scruggs said.
Despite the uncertainty, Scruggs expressed confidence people will soon return.
“It will take some time, but we’ll get back to our flow. There are a lot of people who can’t wait to return. People are anxious to use the pools,” Scruggs said. “Since 2013 we’ve been gaining membership strength and revenue numbers. I think it’s proven the facility, amenities and programs are valuable to the community.”
Answering a question from Councillor Christen Mitchell, Scruggs said Saline Recreation is planning to offer summer camp.
“It’s an essential service for our families. We have essential workers who are going to rely on our camps,” Scruggs said. “The feedback from our parents is that they need this.”
As far as offerings, Scruggs is expecting to offer sports leagues. Softball will start later than normal. She expects to offer sand volleyball.
Councillor Dean Girbach asked about contact sports ina period of social distancing.
Scruggs said there hasn’t been much talk about when they might be allowed to start. But it shouldn’t impact the sports programs too much. Basketball is a sport impacted by social distancing, but people generally don’t often play the sport at the Rec Center during the summer, Scruggs said.
The one sport that might be impacted is racquetball. Scruggs said the court is small and there was no way to have any social distancing during competition.
Scruggs said the swimming pool activities shouldn’t be impacted. The lanes are separated and, Scruggs said, COVID-19 was not known to survive chlorine.
Scruggs said Rec Center memberships are “being paused.”
So if the Rec Center is closed for 10 weeks, those 10 weeks will be added to the end of the current membership.
That will cost the Rec Center. Answering a question from Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak, Scruggs estimated a revenue shortfall of $173,000 on memberships.