prepares for new agreement to take hold

PINEDALE – The new joint powers agreement that will determine how the Pinedale Aquatic Center is operated in the future only has one more hoop to jump through.

The Town of Pinedale, Sublette County and Sublette County School District No. 1 have approved the new agreement. Now, the state must approve it.

The new agreement itself won’t affect people who use the PAC much, but the recreation center will have to find additional revenue to maintain its current offerings.

If approved, the joint powers agreement will be amended so financial overview by Sublette County School District No. 1 will be taken out, but the school district, which owns the building, will have priority to use the facilities.

The PAC, however, will gain some autonomy under the new agreement.

“It’s our chance to rally and capitalize on what’s been here,” said Amber Anderson, the PAC’s director.

The PAC is working on setting up a 501(c)3, making the center a non-profit. “We’ll qualify for more grants as a nonprofit,” Anderson said. “We’re pooling our resources to find grants and we put together a team to evaluate all of the different options.”

Bringing in that extra revenue will be important under the new agreement.

The PAC has been funded primarily through an allocation from the school district’s recreation mil in the past. The rec mil, however, can fluctuate significantly from year to year and last year it was down $1.3 million, or 41 percent, from the previous year.

From 2013-2015, the PAC received $3 million from the rec mil each year. It received $2,816,342 in 2016 and an even $2 million in 2017.

The rec mil, meanwhile, brought in $3,183,085 in 2016 and $1,864,191 in 2017. With the rec mil declining, the school district reached the point where the allocation for the PAC exceeded the total revenues taken in from the rec mil, forcing it to dip into reserves.

The school district considered eliminating the Joint Powers Board that runs the PAC and taking it over to save some money, but left the board in place when it determined the move wouldn’t save it much money.

Under the new agreement, the school district will leave the PAC with three months operating cash and the rest of its reserves will be taken and set aside in a preservation account. The district will take a minimum of $600,000, and up to $750,000, off the top of the rec mil for asset preservation each year and then fund the PAC with the remaining funds. It’s estimated that, after the school district sets aside money for asset preservation, the PAC will receive between $1 million and $1.2 million in the next cycle.

To help compensate for less money going to the PAC from the mil, the district will stop charging the PAC rent, saving it $400,000 annually.

Anderson said the goal is to get the PAC’s operational budget down to $1.8 million.

“More than anything we’ll look at revenue options and additional funding so we don’t have to cut back operations,” Anderson said. “We want to maintain our current offerings.”

Anderson also said the PAC will increase out-of-county marketing, attempting to make the facility a tourist stop. They’re also reevaluating some of the protocols that determine who can rent the facility.

The new budget will go into effect when the next fiscal year begins on July 1. n

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