After the rates for her membership more than doubled at the Greenwood Community Center, a local mother now takes brisk walks in her neighborhood with her family and does aerobics with a video in her basement instead of going to the gym.
Heather McIntosh and her family changed their daily workout schedule when their Greenwood Community Center membership expired this month.
The community center eliminated its family rate of $135 per year for a family of four, plus $15 per additional person. A family membership for McIntosh, her husband and their three children last year cost $150. That’s half as much as she would pay this year for just herself, her husband and their 19-year-old son at the new rate of $100 per adult.
McIntosh isn’t the only community center user who is concerned, or who has dropped their family membership, although the number of complaints and nonrenewals haven’t been tracked, city parks and recreation director Rob Taggart said.
“We’ve heard enough about it to say, ‘You know what, we’ve got to bring this back,’” he said.
The community center eliminated family memberships Jan. 1 and also cut back hours and raised other rates to help cover operating expenses. The center needed to bring in more revenue because the parks department is bringing in less money due to property tax caps, which limit how much local governments can collect in taxes.
The goal is for the parks department to be less dependent on property tax dollars, which are currently the primary source of revenue to pay for salaries, utilities for the community center and parks and operating supplies. Property taxes made up more than $1 million of the parks and recreation department’s $1.4 million in revenue in 2012.
Some families abused the family rate, taking advantage of the fact that a boyfriend and girlfriend could pay less for a family membership than for two individual memberships, and others tacked extended family — such as in-laws — onto a membership package intended for parents and their children, Taggart said. In 2013, 240, or 16 percent, of the center’s 1,518 memberships were family passes.
In January, adult membership fees for Greenwood residents increased from $75 to $100 per year, youth yearly membership from $35 to $50, and membership for seniors aged 65 and older went from $45 to $65. The center now closes an hour earlier Monday through Thursday and Sundays, and won’t open on Sundays from April through October.
Of all the changes, community center members have complained the most about losing the family rate, and the park board is ready to reconsider, Taggart said.
The parks department will listen to concerns and take suggestions about the family memberships and other issues at a public meeting Wednesday.
The city will likely set more specific requirements about who can use family memberships, though, so people who don’t qualify don’t get the discounted rate, he said. The parks department wants residents’ suggestions before making more changes, he said.
In the meantime, McIntosh is pricing memberships at The Gathering Place and other local gyms in search of a place with similar offerings as the community center, such as treadmills, free weights and basketball courts where her children can play, she said.
If the issue is a lack of funding for the community center, then she would like to see the parks department become more creative with finding income, such as by selling ad space on gym walls, rather than charging families more, she said.
“It seems like they’re putting more of a burden on the family,” she said.