In deep water: Boise taxpayers covering losses on six city pools

Lindsay Atkinson Articles

Over the past five years, all six of the city-operated pools in Boise have lost money. The annual losses, for a single pool, have ranged from $37,000 to $101,000.

Ivywild Pool, an outdoor pool located just off Broadway Avenue by Linden Street, has consistently had the highest losses. Ivywild has cost taxpayers $450,000 over the past five years, but all the pools have had losses in the hundreds of thousands:

    • Ivywild Pool: $450,079
    • Borah Pool: $407,496
    • Fairmont Pool: $382,925
    • South Pool: $300,575
    • Lowell Pool: $292,410
    • Natatorium: $218,657
    • General Aquatic Operations: $112,375
    • Total loss: $2,164,517

For all six of the city’s pools, taxpayers have had their pockets picked to pay for the more than $2 million in losses over the past five years.

You could say that the city, and taxpayers, are underwater on the pools.

And, as is the tale for most city-run recreation facilities, paying for these losses is in addition to the admissions cost for these facilities. Thus, taxpayers who don’t even use these pools subsidize them, and those who do use the pools pay twice, once out of pocket, a second time via taxation.

With several private pool options throughout the Treasure Valley, there are private businesses that offer the same service that these public pools provide. Some of the private pools even offer an option that none of the public pools do: They’re open year-round. This makes it worse for residents who use the pools at places like Roaring Springs, the YMCA, or a private gym—they pay for the access to the private pool that they use, and they pay for six public pools they do not.

When you add the losses of these six pools to the losses for the city ice rink, the city golf courses, and other city recreation facilities, private alternatives are the more responsible choice to get these services to residents. When residents pay for the government to offer these services, taxpayers do not only have to pay to get in, but they have to pay for any losses that accrue each year—and not every resident uses these services. In comparison, private businesses that offer these services only get money from people who want to use them and are responsible if their business model leads to losses.