Consensus: Add more money to Merced's recreation budget

City manager asks for direction on how much

abutt@mercedsunstar.comJune 12, 2012 

The city's parks and community services budget has been placed in the forefront of this year's budget process after community members urged more focus on Merced's youth and activities for them.

It was decided that South Merced's McNamara Pool would reopen Thursday, but residents also have stressed the need to keep funding for services and activities to enrich Merced's youth and keep them out of trouble.

In the 2012-13 proposed budget, parks and community services account for $931,567. The city has had to cut back on services and lay off employees to address its general fund deficit. The general fund accounts for most of the city's discretionary money.

On Monday night, City Manager John Bramble asked the council for direction on how much money should be added to the recreation budget.

"The general consensus by everyone was that recreation needed a little more funding," he said in summarizing previous budget sessions.

He provided funding alternatives to the council that would put $210,000 or $150,000 into the recreation budget from the general fund.

Those amounts could bring back a recreation position, fund McNamara Pool for next summer, provide money for Camp McCombs, support youth flag football and baseball programs, or help pay for the Senior Center's part-time staff, among other things, Bramble said.

He said city staff members are working on other options that may not include cutting positions.

But, Bramble warned, "if you say zero (from the general fund) and want to put a certain amount of dollars into recreation, you're looking at some position cuts."

He said he didn't know how many positions could be cut.

A wake-up call

Councilman Josh Pedrozo said he was willing to see $150,000 put into the recreation budget, but added that the budget squeeze should be a wake-up call for the community.

"There's not enough to go around and we would love to fund every single one of these programs. The sad reality is, it's not there," Pedrozo said.

This year, general fund challenges include the loss of state redevelopment funding and $300,000 in lost vehicle license fees.

Mayor Stan Thurston said he hopes volunteers from the community will come out in force to help programs threatened by the lack of funding.

"You know there's a certain amount of money that can be used for funding for this program," he said of the recreation budget. He urged volunteers to contact the city in the next week to set up meetings about how to do more for Merced's youth.

"We can hopefully keep these programs going and get them better than they have (been)," Thurston said.

The city is hoping to adopt the budget Monday. There will be a public hearing on the budget during the council meeting at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsunstar.com.

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