Neenah Pool typically recovers 80% of its operating costs

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reader question: How much does it cost taxpayers to run the Neenah Pool?

Answer: Over the past five years, the annual taxpayer subsidy for the operation of the Neenah Pool at Rec Park has ranged from $23,000 to $71,000, with one exception.

The 2020 grant totaled nearly $132,000 because revenue was well under budget as swimmers stayed home during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We told the mayor that we could open it up and do it well and do it safely, but we would lose a ton of money, and we did,” said the director of parks and recreation, Mike Kading.

Neenah Pool recovered only 39% of its costs in 2020. By comparison, it recovered 90% in 2017, 78% in 2018, 83% in 2019 and 74% in 2021. Details are outlined below.

For 2022, Neenah has budgeted for 75% cost recovery.

“We’ve been closer to 80%” in the past, Kading said. “We were just a little reluctant this year, considering 2021 and 2020 and getting people back in the pool.”

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Neenah Pool features heated water, zero-depth wading and swimming area, water feature, 146-foot waterslide, slide, children’s playground sand, a sand volleyball court and a concession stand.

Kading said Neenah could increase her rates for day passes, season passes and swimming lessons to recoup the full cost of pool operations, but that could make the activities unaffordable for some families.

The 2022 daily pool fee is $3.50 for children (3-17) and seniors (55+) and $4.50 for adults (18-54).

Raising fees presents a philosophical dilemma, Kading said.

“During my time in the state of Wisconsin, people don’t like it,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, I lived and worked in Illinois for 10 years, and they expected to make money off their pools.”

I checked with Appleton to determine recovery of operating costs for Erb and Mead park pools.

Dean Gazza, director of parks, recreation and facilities management for Appleton, said the 2022 budget identifies $524,291 in expenses and $505,933 in revenue, which works out to 96% cost recovery for its aquatic programs.

“When Erb was renovated (in 2017 at a cost of $10 million), it changed things for us and made Erb a revenue generator,” Gazza said.

Mead Pool in Appleton is a popular place to cool off in the summer.

Neenah Pool Cost Recovery

Administrative and investment costs are not included in the totals.

2022 (budget)

  • Expenses: $280,980
  • Revenue: $210,850
  • Net cost: $70,130
  • Recovery: 75%

2021

  • Expenses: $276,800
  • Revenue: $205,920
  • Net cost: $70,880
  • Recovery: 74%

2020

  • Expenses: $217,737
  • Revenue: $85,942
  • Net cost: $131,795
  • Recovery: 39%

2019

  • Expenses: $257,166
  • Revenue: $214,424
  • Net cost: $43,340
  • Recovery: 83%

2018

  • Expenses: $265,241
  • Revenue: $208,068
  • Net cost: $57,173
  • Recovery: 78%

2017

  • Expenses: $239,842
  • Revenue: $216,820
  • Net cost: $23,022
  • Recovery: 90%

Source: Neenah 2022 budget

Post-Crescent journalist Duke Behnke answers your questions about local government. Send your questions to dbehnke@gannett.com or call him at 920-993-7176.

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