Deep Pockets Not Required

In group classes—such as water aerobics and deep-water toning—camaraderie is typically one of the characteristics participants appreciate. But the one aspect of the program that might be self-sustaining is the funding.

The deep water exercise program in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, is completely self-sustaining. Photos Courtesy Eric Ryer

The town of Cedarburg in Wisconsin discovered a way to offer a toning program that is entirely self-supporting, meaning taxpayers do not subsidize it.

In fact, all of the programs offered by the department—Little League, flag football, pickleball, and deep-water toning—stand on their own. Sponsorships from area businesses and individuals, user fees, and a few fundraisers tied to Little League support all programming and related costs, including staff time spent organizing the activities.

Operating in this manner has in no way had a negative effect on the quality of the programming. If anything, donors have increased their level of generosity knowing recreation-related costs are not passed along to the taxpayers.

Expanding Efforts

Originally offered in the fall of 2010, the first deep-water toning session had 12 participants. Initial feedback was great, so marketing efforts were intensified, but still focused on methods that got the word out at little or no cost to keep registration fees down.

The regular mix of marketing has since grown to include email blasts to current and past participants and to more than 1,000 area residents registered for the frequent notifications, a large banner hung at the primary intersection in town, and an occasional article in the local newspaper.

These efforts have resulted in an increase in registration numbers—the second season increased to 18 participants, the third season to 26, and the fall 2012 season to 31 residents.

Working Together

One element critical to the success of the program is the coordination between the instructor and town staff. Several weeks before the season begins, the instructor meets with the staff to discuss “preregistration numbers,” equipment needs, and scheduling.

This meeting also provides the opportunity to discuss lifeguard needs, allowing time to recruit any additional lifeguards to ensure adequate coverage.

Town staff also enjoys good communication with the local school district, which is responsible for facility reservation and passing along scheduling changes as needed.

Since the school district has use priority over the town’s programming activities, the town’s aquatic class gets bumped if a scheduling conflict arises. By maintaining a contact list, town staff and the instructor are able to notify participants of any schedule changes.

Cooperative Planning

So how is the fee set to ensure that the program is self-supporting? It is calculated using “preregistration” numbers gathered by the instructor; a verbal commitment from participants is gathered about one month before the current season ends. All anticipated costs, including lifeguard and instructor wages as well as town staff time (there is no facility rental fee based on school-district policy), are then totaled and divided by the number of “preregistrants.”

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