Hilton Head Island Rec Association wants more money from Beaufort County for pool

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMarch 14, 2013 

  • The Hilton Head Island Recreation Association's operating budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is $1,787,974. Of that amount:

  • 57 percent came from program fees, community events and fundraising

  • 35 percent came from the Town of Hilton Head Island

  • 8 percent came from Beaufort County.

  • Source: Hilton Head Island Recreation Association

Beaufort County is being asked to more than double the funding it provides for a Hilton Head Island swimming pool.

The Hilton Head Island Recreation Association is seeking an increase from $60,000 a year to $132,000 to cover the pool's operational costs. The county has given the association $60,000 for such operations in each of the last six years.

The association's pool on Wilborn Road served about 63,000 visitors last year, more than any other public pool in the county, which include facilities in Beaufort, Bluffton and at Battery Creek High School. Unlike the other pools, the Hilton Head facility is operated by the recreation association, a non-profit group, rather than the county.

The Hilton Head pool receives less money from the county than the other pools, according to recreation association executive director Frank Soule.

Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services spent about $323,000 on each of the other pools in 2012, according to Soule's presentation Thursday at the Hilton Head Island Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

The association spent about $215,000 on its pool last year. That breaks down to $60,000 from the county and about $83,000 from program fees, Soule said. The remaining $72,000 came from the town and through fundraising efforts, he said.

An additional $72,000 from the county could allow the association to lower program fees and grow its need-based scholarship program, Soule said.

The money could also act as a buffer fund when the association's fundraising events fall short, as they did during last year's rainy Wing Fest, which Soule said left the association about $17,000 in the hole.

Beaufort County Councilman Rick Caporale, who represents a portion of Hilton Head, said he thinks the association has a good chance of winning additional county funding.

"In my mind, its a very strong possibility that it will happen," Caporale said. "They're serving so many people so well. I think we need to help them out."

However, Beaufort County administrator Gary Kubic said the county, as usual, has more funding requests than money to give out. He said budgeting for next year is going to be "a roller coaster ride" with the county property reassessment looming.

"I think they have an argument to make and it will be compared to all the competing interests," he said. "I think all of these decisions will be very difficult for county council because we're in a difficult economy and nobody wants to raise taxes."

Kubic said the rec center's request may offer an opportunity to discuss whether parks and recreation facilities and operations could be better managed and funded by the municipalities they serve.

Budget talks will begin at Monday's Finance Committee meeting. Council will likely approve a final budget in May or June.

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