Joliet Junior College's Fitness Center lost nearly $300,000 in the past year, making its closure a possibility as administrators look for places to trim $1 million from the 2013-14 budget.
The suggestion was presented at the JJC Board's workshop meeting Tuesday, along with proposals to evaluate the school's Renaissance Center and Child Care Center, both of which also operate in the red.
This is not the first time the fitness center has been proposed for closure. The idea was broached more than a year ago, and impassioned pleas were made by staff and students to keep it open.
Beyond that, an internal audit of the center was conducted last year and suggestions made on ways to make facility more efficient and economical, yet the deficit climbed from $216,239 in 2011-12 fiscal year to $291,619 this year, Judy Mitchell, vice president of administrative services, told the board.
"The changes were not effective in slowing the process of red ink," Mitchell said.
The number of members adds up to less than 450, including stuff, students and 30 to 40 community members who pay between $75 and $167 per semester, she said. The center, which is part of the main Joliet campus, is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday during the spring and fall, and 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the summer.
Board member Jeff May said he rarely sees anyone using the facility, which includes exercise equipment and a number of weight machines and bicycles making up an "aerobic circuit."
"Do the math -- $290,000 is the cost of $1 in tuition, which for the average student is 30 hours a year," May said. "I want to hear arguments to keep that program open, but they're going to have to be pretty strong to convince me to ask students to pay $30 a year."
The center has been part of JJC in different configurations for at least the last 20 to 30 years, but these days there are many more options available to people looking for a place to work out than there had been. Just down the road is the Galowich Family YMCA, and within just a few miles, the Joliet Park District's Inwood Recreation Center.
Mitchell stressed that closing the center would not necessarily have an effect on the for-credit classes that are taught there. The main expense is the staff required to keep it open to people dropping in to use the equipment, she said.
Employees have been told about the possible closing, and they as well as students, staff and community members will be allowed to weigh in on the idea before any proposal is presented to the board for approval, JJC President Debra Daniels said.
If approved, it could be part of the $85 million 2012-13 budget Mitchell expects to present for board review and preliminary adoption on May 14. It will be legally adopted June 18 and go into effect on July 1.
There is no current plan to increase tuition, and Mitchell said she believes the administration will be able to meet the board's request for $1 million in cuts through a variety of expenditure reductions and an anticipated property tax increase of about $3 for the average homeowner.