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shortridge

The real cost of camp

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Based upon packsaddles suggestion in the FOS thread, that the fee charged for summer camp incorporate the entire cost of camp and that it not be subsidized or hidden in other budgets, I did some very rough back-of-the-envelope calculations on part of the cost of camp. Theyre for what in my experience is a medium-sized summer camp about 300 Scouts, 100 leaders and 80 staff members per week, over an 8-week season.

 

(Disclaimer: My expense assumptions may be wildly off, so please chime in if you have experience in these matters.)

 

The advertised cost for this camp is $330 per week for dining hall program, which translates into $792,000 in direct revenue from the Scouts. (This assumes leaders attend free.)

 

I calculated two expense categories, salaries and food, just for starters. For the seasonal staff salaries, I assumed an average $2,000 paycheck half making more, half making less for a total $160,000 cost. I included two year-round salaries/benefits line items, for a camp director and a ranger, at $50,000 each (including medical insurance, training and probably some housing). Thats a total cost of $260,000 in direct personnel costs.

 

I did some even rougher estimates on the cost of food. There are 480 mouths to feed at this camp for eight weeks; each week is about 5.5 days long when you look at how meals are served. I assumed a cost per person of 50 cents per meal (just pulled out of thin air, thanks to the efficiencies of bulk buying and the miracle of government surplus almond butter), which totals about $4,000 per week, or about $36,000 for the entire 8-week season. (If the camp is a patrol-cooking, bring-your-own-food camp, of course, the cost goes to virtually zero.)

 

Subtotal for salaries and food: $300,000, rounded up.

 

So if you want camp to pay for itself, youre left with about $492,000 for all the other expenses associated with running a camp: Staff training (one week minimum for all staff, two weeks for senior staff at NCS, special training for first-aider if needed), consumable program supplies (e.g., ammunition, basket kits, rope), updates of program supplies (new merit badge books, handbooks as needed), general maintenance (painting, plumbing, electricity, industrial refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers), purchasing new program equipment (replacing the holey canoes, the bent paddles, the end-of-their-lifespan climbing ropes, the 5-year-old arrows with peeling fletching and the disreputable backpacking stoves), purchasing new canvas wall tents and tarps to replace the worn-out ones that can't be repaired any longer, vehicle costs (gas, oil, fluids, tires and general maintenance for trucks and jeeps), pool chemicals, office supplies (lots and lots of paper, ink, toner, pens, pencils, clipboards, computers, Internet access, photocopier rental), blue cards for 2,400 Scouts, first aid supplies, utilities (water, sewer/septic, electricity), marketing and communications materials and distribution, volunteer recognition, camper recognition and awards, general insurance, summer staff workers comp insurance and probably a hundred other categories that arent coming to mind right now.

 

Does that seem reasonable? Anyone have figures or expenses to add?(This message has been edited by shortridge)(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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Are camp salaries for staff really that high? As a 15-year old first year staffer in 1992, I made $40/week ($200 for 4 camp weeks plus a staff week), which would translate to $62 in 2008, although I have no idea how much our council is actually paying these days. Of course, I was provided with all but 3 meals a week, and a place to sleep (translation: the green canvas camp tents) and an air conditioned staff lounge.

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Salaries vary widely from camp to camp. I'm using my own experience as a baseline, but if anyone has better figures, let's plug them in.

 

As an 18-year-old NCS-trained Scoutcraft director in 1998, I took home just under $2,000 for 11 weeks of work (1 week of NCS + 8 weeks of program + 1 week training + 1 week teardown). I used that figure as an average, estimating that the 18+ year-old staffers needed to run a camp by NCS standards would net higher salaries. They include area directors for the waterfront, pool, COPE course, climbing program, archery, shotgun, rifle shooting, Scoutcraft, handicrafts and nature/ecology. The aquatics, shooting sports and COPE directors generally take home larger paychecks, in my experience.

 

If the camp is running according to MBC standards (all counselors 18+), then you'd have a lot more adults on staff in non-director positions, all of whom would be expecting and asking for larger salaries based on their experience.

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Do you have the cost of insurance in there somewhere?

 

When I ran program at a summer camp years ago, this was the single biggest expense. While the camp I worked at was a horseback riding camp and that adds risk/cost, I would be surprised to find that insurance for scout camps is much lower.

 

 

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Shortridge:

I agree with you. I have no experience at running a camp but I see significant costs that are sort of buried in your $492k are the portions of other FT council staff that spend some, most or perhaps all their time working on camp issues.

 

Taking a look at our council website I see an "admin assistant-program service" I'm sure she spends most of here time handling registration for the two council camps (and she does a great job at it too). There is a director of support service who's responsibilities include summer camps. Same goes for the council program director and the marketing director/webmaster. How much of the receptionist's and accountant's time is taken with the camps? How much of the SE's time is devoted to the planning operation etc. of the scout camp? I know our SE spent a lot of time fund raising (corporate, not FOS) specifically for capital improvements at the camps. Time very well spent.

 

We are a large council with a scout reservation (5 camps+high adventure and a smaller stand alone cub camp/training center. The scout numbers are of course higher but the camp staff numbers would be higher too. The capital costs are huge.

 

Consider this contingency: There is an e-coli out break at camp and you a) lose at least a week of income, b) incur lots of additional staff costs dealing with the issue and c) are exposed to law suits from the families of scouts who could have long-term problems due to their illness. Some of this might be covered by insurance but lots of it comes out of the general operating costs. BTW, this is not hypothetical, it happened last summer at Goshen Scout Reservation. Cursed foil dinners! This is an unusual occurrence but such unexpected costs should be a part of a sound budget.

 

Finally, compare the cost of scout camp to that of independent "sleep-away camps". Scout camp is dirt cheap. There is an independent boys camp near Goshen Scout reservation. The prices range from over $700/week for the full summer (six weeks) to close to $1k/week for a three week session. I doubt that anyone is getting rich there. In fact, I think that is on the low end of the sleep-away cost scale.

 

Our prices are in the same range that you cite and I know that the council has been losing money on the camps. I suspect that doesn't count much of the hidden costs of the council staffers who devote a large portion of their time to camp administration. It seems pretty clear to me that the council subsidizes the camp, not the other way around.

 

Hal

 

 

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After posting I decided to look for some real numbers and found our council's 2007 annual report (https://boyscouts-ncac.doubleknot.com/openrosters/DocDownload.asp?orgkey=370&id=46027).

 

Indeed the single largest source of income was "camps and activities" at about $3.4 million. That is a lot of scratch but then look down at Expenses. The largest single expense was Program at over $7.6 million. Assuming that most of the "Camps and activities" income were from camps and that most of the program costs were for camps it looks like a serious losing proposition. There were about 7000 campers between Goshen and Camp Snyder and 3600 Cub Scout day campers.

 

I am not sure what (if any) council costs are incurred for contingent units to Philmont. They seem to be pretty much pay to play but I could be wrong.

 

Hal

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Lisabob,

 

Insurance is indeed in the laundry list. I would imagine it is the biggest line item for most summer camps, but don't have any solid info to back that up.

 

Think about all the "dangerous stuff" we do - sending kids out into the woods on survival treks, chopping logs, carving with knives, swimming and diving and snorkeling, motorboating, climbing 50 feet above the ground, shooting rifles and shotguns and arrows ... yikes. Enough to give your local risk management inspector a heart attack. ;)

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Couple items you've included that may or not not be included in the budget..

 

--Ammo--> One camp I've been to you had to pay a fee to shoot. I don't know what ammunition costs, but I think we paid about $10 for rifle shooting.. Another camp I've been to, all the ammunition was donated. That council has one of the major rifle companies in their council. Also, the camp would then take the spent shells and sell the aluminum!

 

--Merit Badge books--> Camps I've been to sure didn't provide these. They sold them in the trading post, but I would imagine they weren't losing much if anything on having these in the trading post for sale.

 

--Blue Cards--> Our troop has always provided our own; I don't quite see this as a camp expense.

 

 

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Ammunition: As you said, at some camps it's donated, while others charge a fee. I'm hoping to get at an approximate base figure for running this average camp, regardless of donations and recycling efforts.

 

Merit badge books: I was referring to the updated pamphlets provided to the staff counselors.

 

Blue cards: Most troops bring them, but others don't.

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Fifty cents per meal??

 

Just can't be done.

With more and more camps using Food Service Companies to take care of the feeding, this cost per meal is at about $1.65 - $2.00.

Our Council Camp is in a State Park so we also pay rent on the site.

Eamonn.

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Figure it this way:

 

Most Cub Scout day camps are held off council property and are required to turn a profit. So not only are they not getting the benefit of hidden subsidies (think ranger salaries and maintenance) but are 100% pay-as-you-go and then some.

 

So take the cost of your Boy Scout camp for a week and subtract the day camp fee. Do you really think Boy Scout camp can really operate for the difference?

 

Here day camp is $95 and Boy Scout camp is $215. There is no way the Boy Scout camp operates on the $120 per boy -- paid staff, food, program cost, vehicles -- not a chance.

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Eamonn,

 

Thanks for that clarification. I have no idea how much bulk powdered eggs actually cost, and was deliberately trying to lowball those figures.

 

I think almost every food item at my old camp was courtesy of the fine folks at Sysco, though they probably gave a nice discount to the camp.

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Shortridge, gee, I almost feel guilty for instigating this but I think it is a good exercise to really understand the real costs. I would also add that there are inevitable unexpected or capital costs. For example, the (state, county) changes the code and the entire sanitation system must be replaced/upgraded...or the dam safety people find the need for a major rehab on one or more of the dams on your lakes..or a storm drops dozens of trees on structures. This stuff is really expensive and also impacts the long-term viability of the camp.

Prior to boy scouts, I sent my son to one of those private camps (llama trek on the AT) and that went for about $1K per week back in 1994. Their facilities were very minimal and not even close to being as nice as the BSA camp.

I think about these kinds of comparisons everytime I hear (or vent) complaints about the scout camp. We are getting a really good deal and we tend to take it for granted. Personally, I consider this to be unhealthy because it engenders a feeling of entitlement and it allows us to be ignorant of how good we really have it. Paying the freight out of pocket would change a lot of that.

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packsaddle,

 

I hear you on the capital costs - that's a whole 'nother ballgame. I can't imagine what it would cost to start a camp from scratch these days, from land purchase to design to construction, even with a lot of donated labor and supplies.

 

I do think that not publicizing the full operating cost hurts councils in the long run. Parents and Scouts see the fee charged ($200, $300, whatever) and assume, rather reasonably, that's what it takes to run the camp. When those costs go up - whether because of a lousy year for donations or increased input costs - they gripe and groan, not unreasonably.

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