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Budget shortfalls at new WMC

Revenues are down and expenses up, but councillors arenโ€™t pressing the panic button over the situation at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. Rather, theyโ€™re prepared to complete a full year of operations before reviewing the budget numbers, forecasts for which were partly guesswork, staff admits.

In a report to council Tuesday night, director of finance Richard Petherick noted the townshipโ€™s overall operating budget is tracking slightly over what was projected, mostly due to shortfalls at the new multi-purpose recreation facility.

Director of recreation and facilities Larry Devitt had an explanation: โ€œQuite frankly, when we came up with budget numbers, a lot of it was guessing. We guessed low.โ€

Coun. Sandy Shantz, asking if the shortfalls were due to increased staffing costs or operating costs, asked if there were any near-term solutions.

โ€œIs it something we have any control over?โ€

Expenses, particularly for utility costs such as electricity, have been much higher than anticipated. Where staff had used figures from operating the former Elmira arena and pool, the new building has expenses much higher than simply the sum of the old operations, he explained. More common areas, more public spaces, more washrooms โ€“ โ€œAll of these things add up.โ€

Halfway through 2010, revenue is about $200,000 behind what was expected. Expenditures, about $35,000 higher.

โ€œTheyโ€™re big numbers, but weโ€™re dealing with big numbers,โ€ Devitt said of his budget. โ€œWe know we have some issues with the budget and expenditures.โ€

By the end of June, about 65 per cent of the budget had been spent. The situation will even out somewhat later in the year as some of the expenses were upfront, while revenues will climb again in the last four months of the year, he said.

โ€œThe situation [for the rest of the year] depends on keeping expenses in line and generating more revenue.โ€

Operating the $23-million, 113,000-square-foot complex has been something of a learning experience for staff, he offered. With almost a full year under its belt, the department should be able to make better budget forecasts for 2011, while determining ways to reduce costs and boost income.

One of the areas to be reviewed will be the fitness centre. Rather than rent the space for guaranteed revenue, the township opted to have more control by paying an outside firm to manage the 2,300-sq.-ft. centre. To pay for the $132,000 contract council awarded to Personal Best Health and Performance Inc. of Caledon, the facility needed to sell more than 300 memberships, but has fallen short of that goal.

Staff will be meeting shortly to look at changes at the fitness centre operation for the rest of the year, also deciding on some longer-term plan โ€“ โ€œItโ€™s a source of concern.โ€

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