According to today's Blade, the city thinks the benefits outweigh the costs.
Kattie Bond, director of Toledo's department of neighborhoods, said the benefit of operating city pools outweighs the cost.
"It is important to provide recreational opportunities for citizens," Ms. Bond said. "We live in a city where we do get hot weather, so it's important we provide a place for kids to at least get wet and cool off."
Kids already have a place to get wet and cool off. It's called a yard. All that is needed is a hose, since I'm pretty sure that most homes have some sort of water available.
Last year, the pools served 25,151 entrants. The city did not keep track of how many of those 'entrants' were the same individual. They also charged $1 for entry.
In 2007, there were six pools open (one was a splash pad) compared to the 12 facilities opened in 2006. Despite the increased attendance at two of the pools, overall attendance at the six facilities declined 18.5% from 30,841 to 25,151. This clearly indicates that individuals who had access to a pool in 2006 did not travel to other locations in 2007 in order to "get wet and cool off." (I just can't imagine how they survived!)
As these numbers are visits and not visitors, it's hard to estimate just how important this cost is to the general public. For sake of argument, let's estimate that individuals likely to use the pool facilities will do so five times during the season. This seems a reasonable estimate considering the number of days the pools are open.
Using this assumption, the pools had about 5,000 unique visitors. The 2006 Census data shows that there are 74,896 children (under 18 years of age) in Toledo. Even if every visitor to the pools was a child, we would be serving less than 7% of the kids in the city. If we consider total population, those estimated 5,000 unique visitors represent less than 2% of the population.
Yet the city is planning to spend about $600,000 for this - which is about $120 per person served. It would be cheaper to buy every kid in the city a membership to the Boys and Girls Club ($5 per year for 16-18 year olds, but only $3 for 7-15 year olds) which would give them access to ALL activities, not just the pools.
District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski, who voted against this spending, believes the city has other, more important, items to fund in the budget. "In terms of what the [city] charter dictates, [pools] are not a necessity, but the quality-of-life argument will always be made."
Yes, whenever our government wants to justify funding items not mandated in the city's charter, they use the 'quality of life' argument. But they conveniently forget that they are lowering the standard of living for the majority of residents when they spend limited tax dollars to provide such 'quality of life' amenities for less than 2% of the population.
If they were really interested in improving the quality of life in Toledo, they'd reduce the size of government, thus reducing the cost, and give all of us some of our money back to spend as WE want on OUR OWN definition of 'quality of life.'
I won't hold my breath.
p.s. An afterthought...Remember when the city of Toledo passed their balanced budget? City Council members scrounged around eliminating dollars from various funds in order to add a police class ... in December. Think maybe the $500,000 for pools could have been put to better use in getting our police class several months sooner???