When B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced last month that a new statutory holiday called Family Day will launch in February 2013, she suggested it would provide a great opportunity to go skiing, walk in a park or visit a local community centre.
Former park board employee Stew Jordan says the opportunity to visit a Vancouver community centre on a statutory holiday is getting less likely due to budget cuts, dubbed “efficiencies” by the board. Jordan is a former, longtime park board employee recently hired as a consultant to both Sunset and Kerrisdale community centres to assist in finding efficiencies and help negotiate their joint operating agreements with the park board.
“The park board is all upset about the plan to close the [Kitsilano] Coast Guard station and that’s not even their domain,” said Jordan. “But they have no problem slashing hours to community centres and leaving children and seniors with no place to go.”
The park board wants to cut 900 hours collectively from 23 centres across the city in order to save $50,000. It asked individual community centre associations to come up with ways to save the money. In response, several community centre associations proposed closing on some, if not all, stat holidays. The new Creekside centre has proposed closing on six stat holidays as a way to save 96 staff hours at $28 an hour, while Hillcrest could close for seven for a savings of 80 staff hours. Meanwhile, Hastings Community Centre could close for the entire week prior to Labour Day, and the Roundhouse is considering closing for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Karl Gulbransen, president of the Sunset Community Association, said the associations were directed to consider cutting at slower times of the year. He added that doesn’t make these decisions any easier. Sunset has proposed closing at night for two weeks for a total saving of $2,240.
“It’s not good,” said Gulbransen.
He said the park board never suggested the association pick up the tab to cover the closures, but he added it’s implied. Gulbransen noted $2,240 might not seem like a lot of money, but add it to the $20,000 the Sunset association has already chipped in to keep programs going at the community centre and it begins to add up.
“They’re not calling it cuts, they’re calling it ‘living within the budget,’” said Gulbransen. “But we already had to spend $20,000 just to stay open our regular hours.”
NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova is bringing a motion on notice to the board tonight (June 11) asking staff to find other efficiencies and redirect funds from other areas to restore those 900 hours.
“The board spent $270,000 to restore hours to the lifeguard program,” said De Genova. “So I’m sure we can find $50,000 to keep these community centres open.”
De Genova suggested one option would be to take money from the funds set aside for the Stanley Cup Playoff celebrations that never happened.
“There are many parts of the city where residents really depend on their community centre,” said De Genova.
Vision Vancouver vice-chair Aaron Jasper insisted the park board has no other way to make up the $50,000 shortfall.
“There is no wiggle room,” said Jasper. “And if my colleague had taken the time to talk to staff, she’d know there’s no other money to be had.”
Jasper said De Genova approved the budget, as did every other commissioner on the park board. But De Genova doesn’t see it that way.
“This was not what I voted for,” she said.