June 27, 2012 in City

Parks funding to decrease

Four jobs, pool hours could be cut due to budget shortfall
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Parks budget

2009 $16.3 million

2010 $16.1 million

2011 $18.7 million

2012 $18.3 million

2013* $17.6 million

* Proposed

Pool hours would shrink, senior and youth center funding would be cut and about four city employees would lose their jobs under a proposed Spokane parks budget for 2013.

City officials predict that the parks and recreation budget will be $17.6 million next year. That’s down from $18.7 million that the city spent in 2011 and $18.3 million that was budgeted for 2012.

“We couldn’t do just what we have done in years past,” Parks Director Leroy Eadie said. “We had to do something that was a little bit more of a reset.”

The Spokane Park Board will hold the last of three public meetings about proposed cuts at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hillyard Senior Center, which is at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

Eadie’s proposed budget would cut about seven jobs from the department’s 77 permanent positions, though three of those jobs already are vacant.

The city’s parks budget supports many nonprofit youth and senior centers. Last year, the Park Board considered eliminating that funding. At the time, some board members argued that it was a “social service” function that shouldn’t be a parks and recreation responsibility. After significant backlash, however, the board maintained funding.

This year, Eadie’s proposed budget would cut center funding by about $80,000 from the nearly $800,000 the department currently spends on youth and senior centers. Eadie said the Park Board this year appears to be more accepting of its role in funding youth and senior centers.

“The board better understands the services that the centers are providing,” Eadie said. “The question has been more about efficiencies.”

Kate Zehner-Green, executive director of the Northeast Youth Center, said the nonprofit has been advised that the city’s proposed budget would cut its current park subsidy by 10 percent from $128,000. The center’s total budget is about $600,000.

“That will be very devastating for us,” Zehner-Green said of the proposal.

Zehner-Green said demand for its after-school and summer programs is up and other funding sources also have been cut. She said the center also is concerned about a parks proposal to eliminate the city vans that the center uses to transport children.

Eadie said eliminating the vans is an option that would be considered to reduce the $80,000 cut to centers. Another option, he said, is to cut one of the two city employees who work at senior centers.

Among jobs that would be cut under the preliminary budget are the park planning manager, a craft specialist who repairs stone walls and masonry, a marketing assistant and a secretary. Eadie said masonry work likely will be contracted out if his plan is accepted.

In general, Eadie said, the public won’t see much change in parks operations, though there will be fewer recreation offerings and pool hours will be cut. His plan would reduce hours at the city’s new pools by two hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The city constructed the six new pools after voters approved a $43 million bond in 2007. Eadie isn’t recommending an increase in pool fees for next year.


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