City Council members know they have to make cuts. They just don’t want to make all of them – yet.
A Community Services staff report presented during Tuesday’s City Council meeting proposed specific ways to save money by raising fees and cutting programs. Everyone in the room understood the goal of the staff report, but many present for the meeting wanted other options.
New Community Services Superintendent Christine Helweg presented the staff recommendations for recreation fees. The recommendations are based on a cost recovery model that was put in place several years ago.
The cost recovery program aimed to reduce recreational activities‘ dependence on the general fund by $200,000 in the first two years. Cost recovery programs look at how much money a program makes versus how much it costs. The city saves money by ending programs that aren’t pulling their weight and increasing fees in places where it makes sense.
At the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, $168,000 had been saved. The proposed changes are projected to save $100,000 in the coming year, putting Community Services over the two-year goal after three years.
The City Council moved to accept the proposed changes that had been approved by Recreation and Parks and Finance Department, but deferred the additional staff recommendations that had not been seen by those commissions. Helweg said the deferred programs account for about half of the savings.
The presentation was part of a public hearing, and several community members weighed in on the proposed changes.
Two more items were deferred due in part to the public’s recommendations. A proposed fee of $2 for high school basketball open gym had not been approved by Rec and Parks, and several people including councilmembers Lamar Heystek and Stephen Souza expressed concern with charging teens to play basketball.
Joe Sherman, Davis resident, also voiced his concern about open gym, but it wasn’t the fees he took issue with. Sherman wanted to warn people that open gym is a trap.
“This is obviously an extension of the Davis Chinese Christian Church and its attempt to deprive me of my rights,” he said. “This city is going to be destroyed! I’m warning you, this city is going to be destroyed!”
Sherman left after saying his piece. The council did not address the imminent destruction of Davis as brought on by Sherman’s exclusion from pick-up games. They did find Sherman’s contribution reason to examine if high schoolers are using the open gym or if it is mostly college students as he said. Don Saylor, mayor pro tem, also used Sherman’s speech to emphasize the continued need for trained individuals supervising open gym.
The cancellation of lap swim also brought community members to the podium. Currently, Community Pool is open for lap swimming from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Staff proposed cutting the program because the average of 5.3 regular attendees are not sufficient to cover the costs of having a lifeguard and staff during the allotted time. Still, all 5.3 regular lap swimmers attended the meeting and two spoke about the importance of the program.
“Every city I’ve lived in has seen the value of having a lap swim program,” said Bryan Pon, a new resident of Davis. “UC Davis’s lap swim is overflowing, so I question why the city can’t fill five hours a week.“
Helwig said the city has tried publicizing lap swim in many ways but regular attendance has not increased enough. She said eight to 10 people would have to attend regularly for the program to recover enough of its cost to be viable.
City Council will reassess the deferred items after the budget has been examined more closely. Some items could be in front of the council in a couple months, while others could be deferred for over a year.
ELYSSA THOME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org XXX