SPEC needs money.

The California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council has been the industry’s statewide lobbying group since 1973. The organization has influenced decades’ worth of legislation under the direction of longtime President/CEO Don Burns.

But SPEC, much like the industry it defends, now finds itself in a financial quandary.

The group runs on an annual budget of approximately $350,000, among the lowest of all lobbying groups doing business in Sacramento, according to Burns.

Currently, donations are trickling in, but the pace is hardly sufficient to support SPEC’s efforts. As of Dec. 17, the group had collected $143,700, well below the mid-fiscal year target, Burns said.

Burns concedes the group’s financial struggles are nothing new, but this year is especially tough.

“We’ve always had problems trying to raise money,” he said. “But today we’re fighting the same battle that everyone else is fighting — the economy.”

For some, SPEC’s staying power is a very real concern. Officials quietly worry about the group’s finances and mobility at such a critical time for the trade.

“It’s a matter of survival right now,” said Vance Gillette, the group’s treasurer, who also is a consultant with Zodiac Pool Systems in Vista, Calif. “There’s a litany of adverse legislation that Don fights,” he added. “I’d hate to think where our industry would be without SPEC.”

According to Gillette, the problem may be twofold: “I don’t think the industry truly understands what SPEC does, and I don’t think it realizes what the state of California would look like without SPEC.”

One example he cites is a fencing ordinance in Orange County that had slipped into the 2003 state Uniform Building Code. It mandated four-sided fencing on all new pools, as well as those at homes being renovated, sold or rented to new tenants.

SPEC officials helped compel the county Board of Supervisors to unanimously rescind the law, arguing that localities could not deviate from the state building code without meeting certain criteria, which Orange County did not.

“We have a good-sized industry with no other ally in the halls of government,” said Cecil Fraser, CEO of Swan Pools in Lake Forest, Calif., a Pool & Spa News Top Builder and SPEC supporter. “SPEC has really worked to educate legislators on a number of these ill-conceived regulations. If we don’t have SPEC, we don’t have representation.”

For more information or to donate to SPEC, visit www.calspec.org.