As expected, the Flagler County School Board raised membership rates for the Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club, but the board did compromise on a proposed administrative fee.
At its business meeting on Tuesday, July 25, board members voted 4-0 to go to a two-tier membership structure to increase revenues for the beleaguered club. Board member Colleen Conklin was absent.
A basic membership will include just the use of the gym and tennis courts. The Aquatic Plus membership will include use of the gym and tennis courts as well as the pool and sauna. By creating tiers, the School Board is able to charge an added fee for use of the pool and sauna for people who use the club’s facilities through their insurance and fitness plans. The insurance plans reimburse the club for their clients who use the facilities.
SilverSneakers, the largest of the fitness plans associated with the club, approved the added fee to their clients for pool and sauna use but rejected an annual administrative fee of $50.
The board will charge an administrative fee only to its members, but after Board Chair Cheryl Massaro objected to a total increase of $170 for annual memberships, the board agreed to lower the administrative fee from $50 to $25.
“There is an administrative cost,” board member Sally Hunt said. “Someone has to be there, help them with paperwork and then possibly process the paperwork.”
Joshua Walker, Flagler Schools’ coordinator of community services, said the paperwork usually takes 15 to 30 minutes per person and the employees are paid about $15 an hour. Board member Will Furry, who proposed higher rate increases last month than those that were agreed to by the club’s Advisory Committee, consented to adjusting the administrative fee to $25 annually.
The fee applies to the club’s 162 adult members. The 29 student members will be exempt from the fee.
Full adult membership rates will increase from $300 a year to $420 plus the $25 fee. Adult monthly membership will rise from $47 to $55 plus the annual fee. A new family annual pass will cost $750. The administrative fee applies to all adult members.
New basic membership rates that do not include use of the pool or sauna include $250 annual and $25 monthly rates for adults.
Rates for insurance members to use the pool and sauna will be $25 monthly or $250 annually.
The board is hoping to gain more revenue from insurance members. Walker said about 1,100 people have signed with the club through their insurance plans. From July 1 through Dec. 31 of last year, 672 unique insurance members used the club’s facilities, he said.
Although Furry agreed to the lower administrative fee, he said, “It sounds like we’re nickel and diming up here, but with as much loss as we have annually with this pool, every penny counts.”
Furry closed the discussion by taking exception to comments made by the club's Advisory Committee president, Doug Courtney, regarding Furry’s rate proposal.
In a video, Courtney criticized the two-tier proposal, which he said has been tried before and failed. He also criticized Furry's steep annual rate hike proposal. Courtney also had comments published on the news site, FlaglerLive, where he called the rate plan, “ludicrous.”
Furry said Courtney portrayed him as a bully demanding the rate increases.
“You can see that we have collaboratively worked through this, and I don't appreciate somebody that we are working with to advise us to personally attack a board member,” Furry said. “So, I would ask in the future that we have a conversation. Our board meetings are always open to the public. And the advisory committee has even more availability just because we're seeking their direction. That's not the way to go about to get what you want, whether it's me or any other board member.”