Though the matter has not been formally discussed by the city with Imperial Beach residents, the city's Sports Park and Recreation Center will not receive funding in the coming fiscal year, administrative services director Kathleen Von Achen said Wednesday.
"Sports Park is declining by 77 percent and that's because all of the $178,000 budgeted in fiscal year 2013 for the Sports Park has been unfunded," she said during a review of city finances at a City Council meeting.
A remaining $34,000 in the city's recreation fund will go to the Senior Center.
The Sports Park accounts for 1.2 percent of the total budget. Senior Center funding makes up 0.2 percent of the budget, she said.
The decision not to fund the Sports Park leaves the future of the city's Sports Park, Little League and skate park in question.
"This is just a preliminary overview of what we think the general fund is looking like and in the coming months we'll be posting a general budget document and there will be an opportunity for the public to provide their input," Von Achen told IB Patch Thursday. "The City Manager's recommendation is not to fund the Sports Park unless council takes action."
Talks within the city to hand the Sports Park over to the YMCA of San Diego County started last fall, said City Manager Gary Brown.
Meetings to discuss price and terms of payment to the YMCA have taken place since last September, according to city documents.
No contract with the YMCA can be signed without a vote by City Council, Brown said.
"I think the key to keep in mind is that any agreement would need approval from City Council and be publicly reviewed, and I think that's several months off," he told IB Patch last year.
Since then Sports Park employees and young people who use the facility urged the city to establsih a youth commission to review the idea before a decision is made.
The Imperial Beach Little League and softball players also opposed the plan and expressed concern that baseball fields may be removed under the YMCA.
Both fear YMCA fees will be too much for local families and young people.
Councilman Bobby Patton asked what happens if the deal falls through or the City Council votes against putting the facility in the hands of the YMCA.
"The perception looks like we're just cutting youth services. As we all know, its crucial we keep these youth services here in IB," he said. "Let's just say what if everything falls through? What happens to the Sports Park? Does it just grow weeds around it and all the kids hanging out?"
City Manager Gary Brown said he hopes the City Council chooses to enter into a contract with the YMCA. If that doesn't happen it's up to the City Council to decide what to do next.
"The hope would be that council chooses to extend the recreational offering at Sports Park," he said. "If you chose not to do that then we would have to extend some other way. Well, you could do nothing or examine some other ways to provide it."
Brown added that the YMCA takeover will appear on a City Council agenda for the first time March 20 or in early April at the latest.
City Council was shown a preliminary budget Wednesday, Von Achen said.
A review of a draft 2013-15 budget will take place at the City Council's May 15 meeting. The public will be able to review a draft budget the first week of May. A balanced budget must be approved by the end of June.
When the issue first became known to the public last fall, Brown and Mayor Jim Janney said a deal with the YMCA was being sought as a cost saving measure and a way to increase programming for young people.
The 2013-14 budget will have a $175,000 surprlus, Von Achen said. City reserves are also expected to increase beyond $10 million in the coming fiscal year, Von Achen said.
No members of the public spoke during the public comment period Wednesday.
The city of Imperial Beach has sought an outside entity to take over the space since last spring when the Boys & Girls Club was approached about managing the youth center.
During that same time period, Sports Park Director Jim Coates was asked to reduce the youth center's expenses. Five people were laid off, hours were cut, fees were raised and the Sports Park closed on Saturdays.
Little League and YMCA officials started negotiations for rates to use baseball fields last December.
As a child, Tim O'Neal played baseball with the Imperial Beach Little League. His father was the league's president and ran the city's Parks and Recreation Department for a period of time. As a teenager O'Neal got his first job was at the Sports Park. As an adult O'Neal helped establish the skate park.
"It was the little league, it was the parks and recs, it was the basketball courts that essentially got me into college," he said during public comment when members of the City Council discussed reinstating the Youth Advisory Commission, an initiative Councilman Patton has championed.
"I will say it's unfortunate this couldn't have been set up prior to some of the discussions you're having currently about some of the youth services in the future. That would have been nice to have gotten their input prior to some of the major changes that might occur in a few months," he said.
O'Neal did not attend the meeting Wednesday, but wrote members of the City Council an email before the meeting.
"It's quite clear that city staff considers laying off five current Sports Park employees and the possibility of causing substantial financial hardships upon the Little League, Girl's Softball, and the public as a "highlight." I see unfunding our Sports Park as a "lowlight" and something that we should be ashamed of," he wrote.
O'Neal went on to question talk of employee pay increases.
"Not too long ago city staff and Council stated publicly that the reason you're attempting to contract with the 'Y' is because you can't afford to run the Sports Park. So, no money for IB's youth, but plenty of money for raises for city staff?"
Click here to read the full email.
To view the full preliminary budget see the attached PDF.
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