HANSON — The fiscal 2023 Recreation business plan and budget was presented to Selectmen on Tuesday, April 5 funds full operation of the camp, but the inability to attract lifeguard applicants, means the Cranberry Cove Beach at this point.
“I’m not looking at this as you presenting a budget right here,” Selectman Joe Weeks said. “I’m looking at this as a budget plan with, realistically, your expenses are going to be … what you’re projecting being able to bring in.”
He said it was easier to ask the town for free cash to close their budget out with a solid business plan.
Chairman Frank Milisi and Vice Chairman Audrey Flanagan presented the Recreation Commission’s financial plans for fiscal 2023 and 2024 to the Board of Selectmen. If the plan works out, the commission would be less likely to ask the town for more money next year as they seek to do more to bring in more profit, Milisi said.
“Total expenses we estimate to be around $200,000 fully funded,” Milisi said. “That is with Cove staff, a facilities manager and coordinator, the camp staff and the clerical staff.”
The total operating expenses, including staffing costs, are forecast to be about $200,000 to fully fund operations. Funding only funds the facilities manager or the events coordinator — not both — which cuts about $52,000 out of the salary line. There is also no plan for the recreation director position to be filled in fiscal ’23.
Revenue is anticipated to be about $373,250, mostly from weddings, including bar services, ceremonies and camping fees, which he chalks up to a “COVID rush to get married.” But without free cash, he said they would be short of their budget goals for the coming year, according to Milisi. To fund staff needs to meet contractual obligations, he said the Recreation budget would need $60,000.
Weeks said that would be a smart investment to keep the camp going the way it needs to.
The fiscal 2024 forecast is for $372,000 as the COVID wedding rush in plans wind down.
“Wedding revenue is the main source of income for Camp Kiwanee,” Milisi said.
They are starting to consider other ways of diversifying revenue sources for the future, including selling Cove passes to subsidized Cove staff, online camp site and cabin rentals, rolling wedding price increases — potentially 2 to 5 percent a year, to name a few.
The facilities position is a change to the facilities manager post at Town Hall, according to Milisi, but the events coordinator position must be approved by Town Meeting.
He said they do not anticipate hiring Cove staff this year because they have not received any applications for lifeguards, etc., and the pay grade is significantly lower than other places — $16 to $20 per hour. But there is $30,000 budgeted for it. If the beach is open, beach pass fees would subsidize salaries for the Cove staff, and the recreation director position is not anticipated to be filled this fiscal year.
“This is a wish list,” Flanagan said. “As a business plan, this is ideal — we’re just not there yet.”
Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer noted that DCR is paying lifeguard $26 per hour, Milisi also noted some fast food employers are paying $19 per hour.
“That just shows how competitive this market is,” said Dyer, who works for DCR.
Flangan said the openings have been posted for several weeks without one single applicant, and with the bee situation [sand wasps] at the beach, the commission is not fully ready to open the beach.
“Our goal is to get the beach back so we can open next year,” Flanagan said. “[The bee problem] hasn’t gone away.”
“There are no bees at the beach, as it stands right now,” Milisi added. “We’re working through things to remediate it, but the problem with remediation of these bees, is it costs us money — money which we do not have.”
Milisi explained that after a bee infestation last year, the plan is to renovate the facility to a more natural habitat than it was before, which was the recommendation of the Conservation Commission to prevent a recurrence of bee problems, is being planned for fiscal 2024.. The commission is looking to CPC funds to help with that cost.
The department brought in during the 2018-19 season was $269,000 — that year’s salary baseline was $179,600 and operating expenses were $87,000. In fiscal 2019-20 it was $204,000 — salary baseline was about $184,000 and operating expenses were $107,000. By 2020-21, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect, the camp was “essentially 100-percent shut down,” with revenue only $66,000 salary baseline was $95,000 and operating expenses were $52,000.
“Obviously, that was a significant cut to our revenues,” Milisi said.
Fiscal 2022 saw $184,453 come in as wedding bookings and programs began to come back, the salary baseline was $91,840 and operating expenses were $60,000. Revenues are used to pay out salaries and operating expenses, which were higher in 2018 and ’19 when there was a director and full caretaker staff on the job.
“Right now, we’re running the camp at full capacity with a half budget,” he said.
Maintenance costs have increased greatly at the facility where everything is made of wood, as lumber costs have increased 400 percent recently. Dyer also noted that the utilities costs — at $30,000 — is a huge portion of operating costs and asked what is being done to reduce energy consumption and the resulting carbon footprint as well as cost.
Milisi noted that the cost also reflects for contracted services for general maintenance. Flanagan said an energy audit has been done at the camp recently and that the economical operation of utilities such as air conditioning is now included in staff training.