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AAA presents Financing Options on Chinquapin to the City Council

Dear Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Members of Council,

Per your suggestions at our recent meetings, we have met with the City Manager regarding the new pool for Chinquapin, but his position is that he has given the Council the information that you need to make a decision. Possible additional capital projects (including the pool) are listed in the supplemental CIP and possible ways to raise the funds for them are also listed. We have also listened to your concerns, your desire to see a pool if possible, and your discussions on the budget and its financing. Based upon all of the above, we propose three paths for you to take to fund a pool:

1) Authorize the borrowing of $15 million over a two year period (2018 and 2019). As with financing a home, the City’s borrowing of the $15 million has to be paid over a period of time – not all at once. Our rough calculations show that borrowing $8 million in 2018 at 2.5 % interest (the City actually borrowed at 2.1% interest this past year) repaid over a 10 year period would require a payment of about $900,000 per year. $8 million is enough to start construction for the $15 million pool; then another $7 million would need to be borrowed in 2019 to complete it. Again at a $900,000 payment per year, this would require a total of $1.8 million to be paid in the second year and beyond. This amount of $1.8 million per year would require a tax increase of about 0.5 cents over the loan’s life. This approach allows pool construction to start in 2018 and be completed in 2019.

It would leave room for you to do other supplemental projects within the maximum tax rate increase you have advertised – such as the Affordable Housing initiative or school spending. Of course, it would have to be factored in when determining the debt ratio, but that is what the City does every year.

2) Establish a 2 cent tax increase and pay for the pool in two years. This should generate enough to cover the pool funding and keeping that 2 cent increase for the balance of the 10 year CIP would provide another almost $60 million for schools, affordable housing, etc.

3) Defer appropriate capital projects already in the funded CIP for two years from the list of projects attached. Please note that the list doesn’t imply that a project is not important – just whether it needs to be done in 2018 or 2019. Also note that none of the projects affect schools, sewers, Metro or projects like the West End Transitway (that has alternative funding possibilities).

You all have unanimously told us that you appreciate the value of the proposed pool, but some said that there didn’t seem to be a way to fund it. The above provides you with a path within established City guidelines. Our recommendation would be the first one since it has the least impact on the current budget and on taxes, but any of the three will solve the problem.

Please note that we didn’t get into possible revenue sources such as personal property taxes; restaurant taxes; hotel taxes; etc. Those could mitigate some of the tax increase on real estate, but we did not have the appropriate information available to us to comment on them.

Please do the right thing so that all Alexandria kids can learn how to swim.

We would be happy to discuss these approaches if you would like.

Thanks,
Bill Rivers
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

New Survey Supports the Chinquapin Pool!

Strong Public Support for 50 Meter Pool at Chinquapin
Recent survey shows over 60% of Alexandria residents support a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Recreation Center. According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA), roughly two-thirds of Alexandria residents favor the City of Alexandria investing $20 million on a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Rec Center.

In particular, Alexandrians believe a new pool is needed to expand access for local children to learn to swim and to allow residents of all ages to use the facility for exercise, rehabilitation and recreational uses.

Local residents also appreciate the economic benefits a new facility will bring to the community. With a state of the art 50 meter pool in Alexandria, local swim teams finally will have the ability to host meets – ranging from events for regional youth swim clubs to local high school teams to adult Masters swim teams from the East Coast. By attracting more visitors to Alexandria, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses will see an influx of customers.

“The survey results show that the Alexandria community is committed to improving our aquatics infrastructure,” said Bill Rivers, chair of Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics’ Board of Directors. “I am encouraged to see that local residents acknowledge the importance of creating an opportunity for every child in Alexandria to learn to swim and the benefits a new facility will provide to our local economy.”

In 2016 Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics signed a formal partnership agreement with the City to help coordinate the public-private efforts to improve Alexandria’s aquatics facilities. A specific area of focus is the design and construction of a new pool at Chinquapin. With Alexandria’s City Council set to approve the FY 2018 budget in early May, AAA wants the 50 meter pool fully funded so construction can begin in 2018.

Alexandrians want to see youth swim lessons incorporated into the educational curriculum – something that is not feasible given the programming constraints at the existing aquatics facilities. If every school age child in Alexandria is to have the opportunity to learn to swim, more pool space is required.

“This survey demonstrates that Alexandria strongly supports our local leaders committing to the construction of a new pool at Chinquapin,” said Carolyn Griglione, a member of the AAA Board of Directors. “I know there are many competing priorities in the upcoming budget but a new pool at Chinquapin is an investment in a healthy and safe future. Approximately 7,500 children in Alexandria do not know how to swim, and we need to ensure that our community affords everyone an opportunity to learn a skill that can save their life.”

Additionally, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics has commissioned a separate study to identify ways the private sector can contribute to the construction and ongoing operation of a 50 meter pool at Chinquapin. A key goal of that study is to ensure the facility has a steady and sustainable revenue stream, thus becoming less reliant on taxpayer dollars.

Specific findings from the March 22-March 24 survey include:
• 84% support giving more kids the opportunity to learn to swim
• 77% believe swim lessons must be part of the educational curriculum in Alexandria
• 77% believe a new pool will generate revenue for the city, economic benefits for restaurants/hotels
• 75% want to see more programs at local pools such as water aerobics and recreational lap swimming.

The study was sponsored by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics and conducted by Hudson Pacific. The results are based on a survey of 300 adults who indicated they reside within the city limits of the City of Alexandria. Surveys were conducted in English between March 22 and 24, 2017 and averaged 7 minutes in length.

Fieldwork was conducted via telephone by Survey Sampling, Inc. using a random-digit dial sampling methodology. The survey was designed to be representative of the City of Alexandria adult population by gender, age, education and race. The targets were based on 2015 population estimates from the United States Census Bureau.

We need you to swim to the rescue once again!

As I indicated to you in my message after the budget submission, we face yet another challenge to the new pool at Chinquapin. We are not part of the base budget for FY 2018, but we are in the supplemental Capital Improvement Plan for FY 2018. What that means is that we have to convince the City Council to move the pool money from the supplemental (or unfunded) area to the base (or funded) budget.

We had a very productive meeting with Council Member John Chapman last week. He thinks that there is a chance that Council will agree to move some projects from the supplemental list to the base budget. But he warned us that many projects would be competing for that status, so we need to redouble our efforts to convince Council of the need for the new pool.

Accordingly, I’m asking you once again to write to the Council members and to the City Manager expressing your support for the new pool. You’ve done a great job so far and we are getting closer to the end so please take the time to write that message – even a short one is fine – and tell the Council that the new pool is needed.

We are stressing the following points in our meetings with the Council members:

  • This is the third time that the aquatics community has been shortchanged on this pool.

– In 1985, the City built the wrong size pool and no school in Alexandria has been able to host an official meet in over 30 years.

– In 2008, $25 million set aside for Chinquapin was taken because of the cost overrun on the TC Williams High School.

– And now in 2017, we have seen our approved funding once again disappear.

  • 7,500 school kids will not have the opportunity to learn how to survive in the water without the pool space offered by the new pool.
  • The pool would benefit a wide range of Alexandria residents from toddlers to octogenarians. It offers city-wide services, unlike other fitness facilities in the City.

There are plenty of other reasons for the new pool, but these three are a good start to any message that you want to send.

You did it once in getting over 100 messages sent to Council members. Please do it again for yourselves and future generations of Alexandrians.

Here are the links for your messages:  You can contact the Mayor and City Council and the City Manager by clicking on these links.

Also, if you are available, please come to the public sessions of the City Council and speak on behalf of the Chinquapin pool.

Thanks, Bill Rivers

FY 2018 Budget

The City Manager submitted his proposed budget for FY 2018 along with the ten year Capital Improvement Program to the City Council on Tuesday, February 21st.  As usual, we are faced with challenges regarding the new pool at Chinquapin.

The money for the new pool is not part of the CIP. That is the bad news. However, it is part of a listing of capital projects in a supplemental CIP. That supplemental CIP has $15.35 million in it for the new pool for FY 2018. That is the amount needed from the City to go with the $4.5 million that they already approved and have in a reserve account for the project. To get the $15.35 million, we will need the City Council to decide to move it into the base CIP.  This may require a tax increase due to the substantial funding now needed by the school system.

There are many questions yet to be answered regarding the proposed budget. The AAA Board of Directors will meet on Monday, February 27th at 6:30 pm at Chinquapin to discuss the budget and how we should react to it. If any non-Board members are interested, please join us for that meeting.

Let me close with a thank you to our membership. I’m sure that without all of your messages to Council and to the City Manager, we would not even be in the supplemental CIP. The school needs would have forced us out altogether if you had not intervened.

After we discuss the next steps to take, we will be back to the full membership.

Thanks,
Bill Rivers