Community programs recoup after budget cuts
Various community programs in Santa Cruz have been on the chopping block since January of this year when the city, in attempt to close a $9 million budget deficit, charged Parks and Recreation, museums and community centers with finding their own funding. Nearly one year later, all of these programs have been able to keep their heads above water through the hard work and efforts of community members.
The Santa Cruz Teen Center is perhaps facing the most unsure future due to budget cuts. The city stopped paying rent for the Teen Center last fall, but property owner George Ow Jr. agreed to temporarily waive the rent until the city could make a decision on the future of the center.
That decision came when the city decided to permanently cease funding the center as of Jan. 1, 2010. Since this decision was made in June, the center has been looking for a financial solution to their dilemma. A large part of the problem was remedied by the recent acquisition of an $117,000 grant from the Packard Foundation. The grant will be helpful, but still will not cover all of the center’s expenses. “We are grateful for the grant, but still have a long way to go,” says Robert Acosta, recreation supervisor for the center.
The Santa Cruz Teen Center formerly had an annual budget of almost $400,000. They will be forced to make some big changes without this funding. The center will be moving from its location on Laurel Street to the Louden Nelson Community Center on Center Street, where they hope to find a way to operate with much less space. “The move will take place sometime in the beginning of next year,” Acosta says. “We’re happy to have a place at the community center.”
Even with the move and the grant, the Teen Center is still not able to cover the operating costs. The center will have to raise an additional $60,000 to $75,000 to keep the center operational for another 18 months. There are several programs to help raise the money, including one called 3,000 Neighbors. Kelly Clark, a supporter of the Teen Center, is asking 3,000 people to donate $25 to the center—an effort she believes will spread the cost throughout the community, making $75,000 an attainable goal.
Another community program that has been affected by budget cuts is the Beach Flats Community Center (BFCC), whose $86,500 annual budget was axed in January. By June of this year, they had raised $122,000 through private donations and fundraisers to keep the doors open.
BFCC has also recently partnered with Community Bridges to continue their services. Community Bridges is a 32-year old non-profit that also supports programs such as Meals on Wheels, LiftLine and the Live Oak Family Resource Center in the Santa Cruz area. Through this partnership, BFCC hopes to continue offering preschool, multi-age tutoring, after school care and family programs that have successfully reduced crime in the Beach Flats community.
Harvey West Pool, whose annual budget was $630,000 also suffered from budget cuts, but the pool was still able to host swimming lessons this summer thanks to the Jim Booth Swim School, which paid the city to keep the instructional pool open. Unfortunately, the lap swim pool remained closed all summer and prospects for its reopening are not yet in the cards.
Against all odds, the Santa Cruz Surf Museum and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History have also been able to remain open. The Surf Museum, located at the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, is maintaining fewer hours, but is nonetheless surviving because of private donations and fundraisers since it has been taken over by the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society.
The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History has been relinquished to the caring arms of the Santa Cruz Museum Association with great success. “The Association has been able to keep the doors open, offer its regular schedule of school tours and summer programs, and even mount a new temporary exhibit, The Otter Zone, this fall,” says Lise Peterson, operations manager for the Santa Cruz Museum Association. “This was all made possible by two timely grants from anonymous donors, as well as by increased contributions from our members.”
Although all of these community programs have been able to stay afloat through the efforts of community members, their futures remain uncertain. To make a donation to the Teen Center, Harvey West Pool or the Beach Flats Community Center visit: friendsofparksandrec.org. To donate to either of the Santa Cruz museums in need, visit: santacruzmuseums.org.