City officials consider program cuts
by David Lazenby
Dec 18, 2011 | 1805 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Jasper City officials make plans for the construction of a new pool, budget restraints are forcing Jasper authorities to consider eliminating some youth programs at another facility known for its pools, the Memorial Park Natatorium.

“You passed the Natatorium budget and I can’t meet it with the salaries,” Joe Matthews, Jasper’s public works director, told the Council during a work session held on Dec. 9. “So the first thing I’m going to do, starting in January, is cut out after-school programs and cut out the Summer Club Nat program to try to get in budget.”

Matthews’ statement served to make a point that adjustments have to be made in order for the Natatorium to stay within the 2011-2012 budget approved by the Council on Dec. 6.

“My point is, I’m just telling you and telling the mayor I’m $50,000 over salaries,” Matthews said. “I can’t do it and run everything that I’m running and that’s my first cut.”

When Council President Sandi Sudduth asked Matthews if he can “try and find a way to make it work,” Matthews responded he could if the Council gave him $50,000 more in the budget.

“Their budget is primarily salaries,” Matthews said about the facility located at 610 10th Ave.

The city’s total budget for the Natatorium is about $523,000. The amount budgeted for salaries is about $250,000, according to Matthews who said the amount budgeted for salaries was reduced by about $50,000 from the year before when $298,000 was spent on Natatorium salaries.

“The Natatorium has four full-time people, but primarily it is run by part-time counselors and life guards,” Matthews said.

The officials discussed “shifting” some of the part-time employees at the Natatorium, but Matthews pointed out the building known as The Nat is required by state law to have lifeguards on duty any time the pool is open.

“I can save $24,000 by not being open on Saturdays,” Matthews offered as an alternative means of reducing costs. However, he pointed out, “That’s when all the parties are. That actually makes money.”

The Natatorium also receives money from families that participate in the summer and after-school programs.

Because the Natatorium’s incoming funds go into the general fund rather than accounted into the Natatorium’s fund, Matthews said he still needs to do further evaluation to determine how much cutting the programs will benefit the city’s coffers.

“It’s very difficult to understand, because of the way we do our accounting, what any department really spends and what it takes in,” Matthews said about the printouts produced by the city’s accounting software.

Matthews said when he has finished doing his analysis, he will return to the Council during a regular meeting or work session to discuss the programs before any decisions are made regarding the future of some of the Natatorium’s programs.