The Pictou County Wellness Centre Building Authority took the first steps in managing its own affairs Monday by releasing a draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
After five years of paying the firm Nustadia $127,000 a year to manage the multi-million-dollar complex, the board decided that as of March 31 it would take matters into its own hands in hopes of reducing operating costs.
David Hood, general manager for the Wellness Centre, told authority members that the centre is projecting a $700,000 deficit in 2018-2019, $100,000 lower than this year’s. The projected deficit for 2017-2018 is $801,000.
The municipalities of Trenton, Pictou, Stellarton, New Glasgow and the County of Pictou are the supporting members of the Pictou County Wellness Centre Authority and its board of directors. Their support includes contributions toward the annual operating budget shortfall for the centre. A deed transfer tax collected by the five municipal units is used to fund the capital contribution every year.
As part of the transition from Nustadia, municipal units with the authority will no longer be making payments on the deficit but rather monthly municipal contributions that will cover the budget overrun.
Hood said staff have been handling the transition well, but having Nustadia gone does not mean an automatic $127,000 in new revenue. Instead, some areas, such as administrative work, had to be taken on by the board authority which meant hiring new staff or work as contracted out
- was some debate on how much revenue will actually be collected this fiscal year. Hood said the Wellness Centre is projecting to collect $714,000 in revenue and will spend $1.6 million as expenses. However, he cautioned the board that this draft budget did not include any potential special event revenue that might be booked with the centre, such as concerts, home shows or sporting events over and above the usual ice rentals.
Hood said previous board authorities didn’t want these projections in the budget so he excluded them, but this board said it was better to be positive about future.
“If we added in those revenues and projected a surplus, is there something wrong with that?” asked Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan. “If we don’t have a surplus, we don't have surplus.”
He said having the projected revenue in the budget shows confidence in the facility and its staff. He said staff should also have targets they have to meet in selling advertising.
“We need to put pressure on our advertising people and the public expects to see growth in certain areas,” Ryan said.
Hood said the advertising budget is currently $70,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, but this does not mean that staff stop selling once it is reached.
The centre is also expecting to see growth in its community room rentals and it expects ice rentals to remain on par with the previous year. It is not expected to increase the cost of its ice rentals in 2018-2019.
Overall, board chair Shannon MacInnis said he is pleased with the direction the Wellness Centre has taken in the past year, especially with rentals for larger events such as the home show, pizza festival and Brody Blair’s Boxing Night in Canada event.
In regard to expenses, the board approved the repair of an air and water heat pump located on the outside of the building that hasn’t worked since the centre first opened.
MacInnis said the heat pump was put in to lower the energy costs in the building, but stopped working shortly after the centre opened in 2012 and was never repaired so other sources of energy were used.
He said when the current board decided to seek ways to make the building more efficient repairing this pump was a priority. The centre received an Efficiency Nova Scotia grant for $8,400 so the remaining repair costs will come in at $5,524.
However, Hood said, once it is up and running again, it is expected to save the centre $12,000 in energy costs for the year.
The board also approved the repainting of the lines in the parking lot for a cost of $15,000 and it will be ordering new mats for the atrium as well as chairs and event poles that are used for rentals to hang lights, curtains, etc.
One area that is continuing to be monitored are the visible cracks in the concrete walls in the centre’s gymnasium. MacInnis said staff noticed a few small cracks in the concrete in the Bell arena a few years ago, but more are visible in the gymnasium and changing rooms rented by the YMCA Pictou County.
He said contractual engineers were called in and suggested that the cracks be monitored over time because it could just be the building settling.
MacInnis said the building is safe and he confident land surveys were done before construction and engineers involved with the construction of the building did their due diligence.
The board has also agreed to wait for more information from the YMCA before it decides on a capital request for a new chlorination system for the pool.
The YCMA, which rents space in the centre, asked that its chlorination system be updated because there are health and safety concerns with the current system in regard to staff handling bulk chlorine. The authority owns the building and is responsible for any repairs or maintenance work that needs to be done, including the pool area.
Hood said this was the first time the YMCA has put in a capital request to the authority.
In the end, the board agreed not to accept the draft budget until the revenue projections are in it for event rentals. The revised budget is expected to be presented at its June 25 meeting.