Under the change, revenue surpluses from programs and room rentals would flow to the park board. The park board would decide how to spend such surpluses, not the community associations that run each centre.
In a statement, park board general manager Malcolm Bromley said the point updating the agreement is to provide a more equitable distribution of funds among centres in the city. “A key focus will be to ensure that all citizens, regardless of socio-economic status, have fair access to community centre programs in Vancouver — something that is the norm across the city’s ice rinks and swimming pools, but not the case across all fitness centres and other programs in our community centres.”
Several community centre associations are seeking legal advice and suggest the proposal is a thinly disguised cash-grab by an indebted park board trying to cover its own shortfalls.
Earlier this year, the park board announced it faced a $2.4 million shortfall for its $104-million operating budget for 2012, which had it considering various cost-cutting measures. A park board power point explains the community centre plan includes shifting the development of programming to the park board, and away from individual community centres.
Christopher Richardson, president of the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association said the move could seriously affect community centres’ ability to fundraise, to maintain community-based volunteer staff and to provide programs that are of direct interest to the communities each centre serves.
Some core programs, like swimming and ice skating differ from those that are market-driven, and might be offered by individual teachers with specialized skills, such as cedar basket-weaving or guitar, explained Richardson.
“I have a board of volunteers that live in the neighbourhood and represent the community. It is necessary for us to move quickly to address the needs of the community. A centralized system will not allow us to do that.”
Bromley said the Park Board “would like our public to have access to any and all community centre programs without having to take out separate memberships at each centre. This will ensure our citizens have access to the full network of community centres and all the programs they provide.”
At issue in particular are some programs, such as fitness centres, which vary in access and quality across the city.
The Kerrisdale community centre, for example, does not accept the city-wide community centre flexipass because their updated gym was funded largely through private donations, and is run separately from the community centre.
Richardson questions the Park Board’s motivations and is concerned about a lack of public debate. “This is the most major change by the park board and they haven’t (held an) open debate or considered the alternatives.”
with files from Brian Morton