New board is now in charge of operating swimming pools

The Tigard-Tualatin Aquatic District is now in charge of the swimming pools at Tigard and Tualatin high schools.

The transition, which officially took effect July 17, means that the 37 employees who work at the pools and the cost of maintenance are no longer a financial drain on the school district.

This is the end of an uphill struggle that has lasted more than a year, when the Tigard-Tualatin School Board announced it would be closing the pools June 30, 2010, due to budget constraints.

A grassroots movement led by local citizens formed to explore operating the pools as a special district, and voters approved Measure 34-176 in May to form a taxing district to operate and maintain for the pools.

But now that the hard part is over, the actual work begins.

"It's been a lot of work," said aquatic board President Kathy Stallkamp. "But I think it's been pretty seamless. Nobody should notice a difference."

Stallkamp compared the process of taking over the pools to setting up a new company.

"It's the little things that most people don't think about," Stallkamp said. "Like what insurance provider are you going to go with? Things that people don't really have to worry about when they start a job, we have to think about."

After voters approved forming the district in May and elected five people to the board, the aquatic district needed to secure liability insurance before taking over.

Although school district officials said that the pools cost about $500,000 a year to operate, Stallkamp said that this year the two pools will cost about $700,000 because of additional maintenance that the aquatic district needs to perform.

However, the aquatic board expects swim center fees to remain the same, Stallkamp said.

Homeowners will pay up to 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation to operate and maintain the pools. For example, a home assessed at $250,000 would be taxed $22.50 annually at the 9 cents per $1,000 rate.

If the full amount is levied, the district would generate nearly $800,000 per year

The aquatic district won't see any of the taxpayers' money until November, so the school district has agreed to pay up to $200,000 between August and November to keep the pools open.

The $200,000 comes with the agreement that student athletes and school-organized functions have first dibs on reserving the pools for team practices, competitions and lessons.

After the taxpayer dollars become available in November, the school district will no longer contribute any money to the pools, Stallkamp said.

However, the district will still own the buildings, which the aquatic district will rent for $1 per month for the next 20 years.

Both swim centers are open for the summer, and patrons will see the operations continuing as usual.

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