El Paso Community Pushing Back Against Proposed Closure of Socorro Aquatic Center

by Riley Overend 6

May 24th, 2024 High School, News

The El Paso swim community is pushing back against a proposal to shut down the Socorro Aquatic Center for one year to help the Socorro Independent School District (SISD) save money amid a ballooning budget crisis.

The SISD is facing a $41 million deficit next school year, which would more than double the current $33 million shortage. Board members are set to vote on a number of cost-saving measures discussed at a meeting earlier this month, including reducing employer healthcare contributions, the substitute teacher budget, and overtime.

However, the idea of suspending operation of the SISD-owned Socorro Aquatics Center has sparked resistance from the six high school teams, several club teams, and one summer league team that share the facility. The proposed closure would save the district about $1 million next fiscal year.

“Losing this facility, even if it was only temporary, would be a huge setback for not only their teams, but the community as a whole,” said Manny Gardea, a swim coach at Eastwood High and the Socorro Ragin’ Gators (summer league). “They also provide swim lessons to every third grader in their district, water aerobics, and many other activities for the district and the community.”

The SISD will likely be forced to dip into its $72.9 million in reserves (as of 2022-23) in order to cover its deficit. At a board meeting in January, the district said that was only enough money to keep the system running for 55 days.

“How do you tell those 7-year-olds that they can’t swim here anymore because of the district’s misuse of their funds? That is not a child’s fault, and to save $1 million,” said Annia Palacios, who coaches the Socorro Ragin’ Gators along with Gardea. “Swim teams are vital to the community because drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages one to four. And it’s important for facilities like this to exist in our community to keep our children of El Paso safe.”

Interim superintendent James Vasquez said a potential aquatics center shutdown is still being reviewed and has not been recommended yet. The Socorro Aquatic Center has been operating for the past 25 years in El Paso.

The SISD board is expected to vote on its 2024-25 budget next month. The financial crisis comes as two board trustees were arrested and indicted on charges related to their administrative roles. The district reportedly said that they will remain on the board as voting members.

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22 days ago

Makes no sense to close the pool for a year. Drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the budget.

C C
22 days ago

> The proposed closure would save the district about $1 million next fiscal year

Does it really cost 1 million per year to maintain a lap pool? That seems much higher than it should be

Dan
Reply to  C C
22 days ago

You have to pay staff, lifeguards, and many other things. If you drain the pool you will save on water and chemicals and electricity as well. Not sure how large the facility is (number of pools / gallons of water). They are also talking $1 million in savings so maybe the actual cost is higher?

zThomas
22 days ago

This is the Texas Governor has frozen the basic allotment – the amount of money the state sends back to the school districts for each on a per student basis – to public schools since the 2019-2020 school year. Teacher’s salaries, food, transportation costs, etc have gone up 20+% since then leading to staggering deficits for nearly every school district in the state. The state public school fund has grown to $53B now and yet instead of trying to alleviate those deficits the Governor proposed a private school voucher, which would direct public school fund assets towards private school tuition. The proposed voucher is $8,000, which is more than the state provides to school districts ($6,400). Even if you are… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  zThomas
22 days ago

Well, also Texas schools favor football stadiums. Plus, El Paso is not Frisco Texas or Sugarland. Its not in a fast growing area where more wealth comes into the area like the Greater Dallas or Greater Houston area. California folks go to places like Frisco or Sugarland not El Paso.

zThomas
Reply to  cynthia curran
22 days ago

While I agree that stadium are of debatable I think we can allow those decisions to be made at the district level. The Governor proposed a private school stipend $1600 per student higher than the basic allotment (the per student contribution) amount to the districts. In simple terms: The state was willing to give more money to a private school than they give to public schools.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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