The city funds recreational facilities to meet the needs of residents. Last year, those needs came at the cost of $70,000 to maintain gymnastics.
BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER
The Ormond Beach Gymnastics Center got the attention of City Commissioners last meeting when it was reported that the city supplemented the program with $70,000 in tax dollars in the past year. The Budget Advisory Committee has been tasked with reevaluating the current investment structure.
Commissioners discovered the cost of the gymnastics program when they voted to withdraw a request for proposals for a private company to run the program after receiving no offers.
“This is on my radar,” said Commissioner Troy Kent at the meeting. “I hope the city can be creative and come up with a solution.”
All recreational programs are supplemented with tax dollars. It’s not possible to recoup the costs through user fees, because the amount would be prohibitive, according to City Manager Joyce Shanahan.
“As most cities do, (Ormond Beach) supports the costs to provide those services with other general fund dollars,” she wrote in an email.
There have also been fewer participants in the gymnastics program the past year, resulting in less revenue from fees for the city, according to city documents.
Gymnastics coordinator and coach George Postell, who is certified by the United States Association of Gymnastics and Amateur Athletic Union, said gymnastics is a sport that has ebbs and flows in popularity, but it never goes away.
“It builds muscle definition, balance and coordination and also develops self-esteem,” he said of gymnastics. “It’s good for the body. It’s a constant-motion sport.”
He said some young people devote themselves to the sport as a whole, while others take classes to improve skills in specific areas. For example, many cheerleaders and dancers take tumbling. He said he has seen many former students go into fields such as sports medicine and physical therapy, using knowledge they gained at the gym.
Leisure Services Director Robert Carolin said that there were 770 registrations for gymnastics in 2008; this year, there have been 557 registrations.
Postell believes the numbers at the gym have dropped because of increased competition from businesses in the area.
“It’s not that gymnastics is falling off,” he said. “It’s just that gyms are popping up all over Ormond Beach. ... We’re here for the public. A private facility can charge as much as they want.”
Wendy Feigenbaum takes her daughter, Ginger, 4, to the city-sponsored program.
“George keeps the classes small and watches them. It’s comfortable,” she said. “I love to support the city because it does a great job running recreation. I feel lucky to live here.”
The amenities for gymnastics vary among local cities.
In Daytona Beach, the expenses for the city’s gymnastics program were $86,133 in the past year and the program's revenues were $51,489. That left $34,644 to be picked up by the taxpayers, according to Spokeswoman Susan Cerbone. The program has a full-time instructor and a fully-equipped gymnasium at the Schnebly Recreation Center.
In Port Orange, the gymnastic offerings are considerably less. According to Parks and Recreation Director Susan Lovallo, the city does not have equipment such as rings, pommel horse, etc. The only gymnastics program they have is for small children and it meets once per week for an hour. The instructors bring their own equipment and pay rental to the city.
While the cost of gymnastics in Ormond Beach can be easily identified, other programs are harder to pin down.
The Nova Community Center offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, and the city spends $235,769 to operate it. The South Ormond Neighborhood Center, which has everything from a chess club to a weight room, costs $186,097. The Performing Arts Center requires $201,793 from city coffers. Providing facilities and scheduling for youth, adult and school sports cost the city $275,809.
Carolin said cities offer recreation based on the needs and desires of the residents. “It’s totally transparent," he said. "There are no secrets.”
He said citizens also have opportunities to voice their opinions at meetings, including Quality of Life and Leisure Services committees. The boards are made up volunteers, he said. For example the budget-advisory board has people with business backgrounds while the leisure services board enlists people who are active in local sports.
Carolin said Ormond Beach does look at other cities for ideas, but it’s often hard to compare budgets. For example, a small city with a lot of acreage to maintain can have a larger per capita expense than a big city with small acreage.
“Different cities have different ideas what to offer,” he said. “It’s not a fair comparison. The amenities vary so drastically.”
Carolin said amenities offered by a city are ultimately decided by the taxpayers.
“A good example is Andy Romano Park,” he said. “There was a referendum and people voted to tax themselves for a beach park. The community believes the dollars they spend in taxes is worth it for the quality of life. When you drive down the street you see a beautiful median and when you take your child to the park, you see a beautiful park.”
Shanahan pointed out that the city has contracted out the Tennis Center and Senior Centers, which are now supported with far less city revenue than they were previously. She said the city also tried to contract out the Performing Arts Center but received no interest.