School budget cuts call for closing JFK pool on weekends
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO A morning water aerobics class at the JFK Middle School pool in 2007. School budget cuts now call for closing the pool on weekends. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — Fruit Street resident Jeffrey Bubar has spoken at each of the last several school board meetings about a potential casualty of this year’s school budget cuts: weekend hours for the pool at JFK Middle School.
“I use that pool for cardiovascular fitness and cholesterol fitness,” said Bubar, 74, in a recent telephone interview. “It’s been a good partnership between the school and the Recreation Department.”
At issue is a proposed $40,000 reduction in school custodial services for next year that will mean closing JFK on weekends, including the pool at the school’s Aquatic and Family Center, which is run by the city Recreation Department.
The proposed school custodial cut was part of $773,403 worth of reductions the School Committee approved to balance a $28.61 million schools budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
City Recreation Director Ann-Marie Moggio said her department can’t afford to provide custodial services to keep the pool open on weekends if that cut remains in the final city budget for next year.
“There’s no way our budget can support it,” Moggio said. “It’s something I’m hoping doesn’t end up on the chopping block.”
In addition, Moggio said weekday hours at the JFK pool may also be difficult to sustain if the Recreation Department is unable to host revenue-generating events such as birthday parties on weekends.
“Weekends are very important to our operation,” she said.
As for raising fees to keep the JFK pool open on weekends, Moggio said, “That’s always tricky. You don’t want to out-price yourself. We try to keep our fees as low as possible to cover our costs.”
Recreation Department officials plan to meet with city school administrators Monday to “get a better understanding of what we offer and what the impact would be” of proposed budget cuts, Moggio said. The pool issue is also slated to be on the agenda for the Recreation Commission’s regular meeting May 13.
The Aquatic and Family Center at JFK, which was part of renovations made to the middle school in 1996, includes a six-lane heated pool, a two-court gym and six tennis courts. The pool is open to the public on weekdays before and after school hours and on weekends for a fee of $4 for adult residents of Northampton and $5 for non-residents. Discounts are available for children under 16 and adults over 55. Annual membership fees for the JFK pool are $115 for adult city residents and $155 for non-residents, with discounts for youth and seniors.
Over the last five months, the Recreation Department reported 2,500 weekend “uses” (some are for group events) of the pool and 4,495 uses on weekdays.
Bubar, who started swimming at the JFK pool more than a decade ago to ease arthritis in his ankle, said his schedule as a retiree means he could go on weekdays if weekend hours are eliminated.
“But if they close it all down my health would be in jeopardy,” he said. “It’s not only the pool itself, but affordable public recreation that’s going to be threatened.