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Community Center adds value to Federal Way | Letters
As Director of Parks, Public Works and Emergency Management for the City of Federal Way, I feel it is important that I respond to the letter written by Matthew Jarvis that was published in the Federal Way Mirror that claims the Federal Way Community Center (FWCC) loses $1.8 million annually.
To set the record straight, the FWCC from its conception had a planned subsidy. In 2003, a one percent utility tax increase was implemented for the purpose of funding the FWCC’s debt service, operations and capital reserves.
Over the past five years, that one percent utility tax averaged $1.65 million. Of that amount, $915,000 pays for the debt service on the facility.
In 2012, the operational subsidy totaled $425,000. Any remaining utility tax not used for debt service and operations, automatically rolls into the ending fund balance for capital reserves, which is essential to maintaining the facility and its equipment over time. At the end of 2012, the capital reserve fund is estimated at $1.2 million.
The staff of the Community Center has continually worked to improve the facility’s operations. In 2010, center revenues exceeded budget amounts by $56,000 while expenses came in $59,000 below budget. In 2011, center revenues exceeded budget amounts by $73,000 while expenses came in $12,000 below budget. Our preliminary 2012 financials continue that trend, exceeding budgeted revenues by $179,000, and bringing expenditures in $34,000 below budget.
Community Center staff have not only focused on financial performance, but have also expanded the number of high quality programs we offer which has increased membership and use. The facility has reached 5,700 members, an all-time high. Since 2009, the Community Center has averaged more than 300,000 visits annually; in 2012, we exceeded 350,000 visits for the first time. We are currently averaging 3,500 group exercise participants a month in our fitness classes.
Beyond the exercise facility, the center’s wide range of programs provide accessible recreation and community activities for our diverse community, including recreation classes, workplace skill development, swim lessons, babysitting courses, and many, many more.
Our seniors use the facility for athletics, meal and nutrition programs and a wide range of enrichment activities. At the other end of the spectrum, more than 17,000 kids have registered for recreation camps at the center since its 2007 opening. The center also serves as the home facility for two private schools that don’t have their own gym, home pool for Federal Way High School, serves disabled students from the Federal
Way School District, and also provides a program that helps home schoolers earn P.E. credits.
Mr. Jarvis suggests that parks and parks facilities should be run like private facilities. While the Community Center staff will continue to be diligent in improving the business operations, there is a reason that private, for-profit parks don’t exist in any great numbers.
Citizens across the country expect their cities to provide parks and community facilities that provide accessible recreational opportunities not offered by the private sector. The City of Federal Way has stepped up to that challenge in what I believe is a very responsible way, both in offering the range of programs available at the Federal Way Community Center, but more broadly by running a first-rate parks systems for every Federal Way citizen.
Cary M. Roe, P.E., Director of Parks, Public Works and Emergency Management for the City of Federal Way