With a lifeline thrown in the form of additional funding from the three municipalities in Yarmouth County, the Yarmouth YMCA has reviewed its operations and is implementing changes in hopes of turning red to black.
YMCA board chair Vance Rodney, centre manager Denise Brown, and interim CEO Margaret Kay-Arora stand outside new administrative offices in the lobby. The YMCA is hoping more residents will purchase memberships for 2012.Carla Allen photo
YMCA board chair Vance Rodney and interim CEO Margaret Kay-Arora met with the Vanguard a few days before Christmas.
“We know that starting as of April 2012 the commitment from the three municipalities is $100,000,” said Kay-Arora.
“Providing we meet stipulations,” added Rodney.
The funding will be paid over one-year in monthly installments. The facility is required to provide monthly reports and break-even budgets for 2012. An operational review is required with the objective of obtaining greater financial autonomy and being sustainable in the long term.
The Municipality of Argyle wants the YMCA to produce a reconciliation of membership dollars and membership numbers, and to determine the amount of people with memberships that are fully paying and those who are receiving a subsidy.
Rodney says those stipulations are fair.
“If you’re expecting support from outside entities, I think that they deserve to be informed about what we’re doing.”
Kay-Arora agreed, adding that the more the Y works with the municipal units, the more they will understand the budget and some of the challenges the Y faces.
“I think it’s going to be a positive experience, to go through this process – working together to understand what it means to have a YMCA in a very small population and keeping it running,” she said.
The 2010 operating budget (salaries, utilities, etc.) for the Yarmouth YMCA is $837,000.
“Since July, YMCA executives have been meeting monthly with municipal CAOs, the mayor and wardens,” said Kay-Arora. “We’ve been very transparent about our finances and we’re trying to work together to come up with a solution.”
After reviewing program performance the Y has decided to trim those that have shown declining numbers over the past five years.
When after-school programs implemented by the school board began in 2006, the Y saw a dramatic drop in its after school program. Leisure Services (now known as Yarmouth Recreation) also began offering competitively priced day camps. This affected enrolment in similar programming provided by the Y.
Meanwhile, a large percentage of the Y’s operational costs are required for the pool. YMCA Canada estimates that 60 per cent of YMCA expenses are associated with this.
“There’s not a pool in Canada that does not run a deficit. It’s the nature of the business,” said Kay-Arora.
“In conducting research, we learned that a lot of places that have pools are receiving municipal assistance to manage the cost of their pools,” added Rodney.
Although the pool constitutes a tremendous draw on finances, the aquatics side is basically breaking even locally. It is an asset that Yarmouth is lucky to have it.
The $21.6-million Queens Place Emera Centre that recently opened in Liverpool has a NHL-sized arena with seating for 1,000 spectators, an indoor track, a fitness centre and studio, a multipurpose community room, a boardroom and meeting area, and a youth centre, but no pool, even though close to 90 per cent of residents said they wanted one.
The pool was cut during the design stage, in a controversial decision by Queens council. The local swim team uses a small outdoor pool in Milton that is too small to host competitions.
Another area of concern locally for the YMCA is the Yarmouth Y lotto sales. These have declined over the years due to the economic situation in the region.
Approximately $150,000 in lotto tickets was sold in 2007. That number fell to $90,000 in 2010.
“What’s encouraging this year is that we’ve refreshed the lottery and changed the prize structure and we’re going to see an increase,” said Kay-Arora.
“We’re close to selling out,” said Rodney.
“There are 3,600 YMCA Lottery tickets and almost 95 per cent are sold.”
Partnering with Yarmouth Recreation is another avenue the Y is exploring.
Kay-Arora and Rodney say that one of the things they’d like to establish with everyone is the fact that the YMCA is a charity and it is not an exclusive club.
“If you can’t afford it we have ways to help with that too. The price shouldn’t be an issue with people when they’re thinking about joining the Y,” said Rodney.
“Of our present membership, 12 per cent are financially assisted,” added Kay-Arora.
A reopening of the Y was held in mid-September to celebrate the completion of $1.2 million in renovations. The improvements are already adding to the attractiveness of the Y, but keeping the place operating will be up to the community.
“This is not an easy task,” said Kay-Arora.
“We want to do everything we can to keep it going. It’s important for the community and this community is very fortunate to have a Y.
“The best support we can get from the community is for people to buy memberships, take part in activities and become healthier.”