October 25, 2010
Dear Green Lake Neighbor,
Thank you for your email expressing your opposition to the “closure” of Green Lake Community Center. I would like to start by making it clear that the 2011 budget proposal does not result in closure of the center—in fact it, and proposals for several other centers, enables us to keep the doors open at all community centers, some with limited hours.
You have surely read that this is a budget of unprecedented tough choices and difficult decisions. It includes tradeoffs that mean the difference between closing a facility and trying to keep it open, between maintaining our usual standard of park maintenance and seeing it erode. It’s a new situation, one in which we can’t find one-time fixes and hope that revenues will increase any time soon.
The $67 million revenue shortfall the city faces, combined with uncertainty about the future, is forcing us to think creatively and to find new ways to do business. We developed the budget using these guiding principles:
• Ensuring equitable access to parks and recreation facilities.
• Providing a diverse range of park and recreation opportunities.
• Exploring new ways to deliver services and programs.
• Strengthening existing partnerships and developing new ones.
• Preserving our living and built infrastructure.
We are forced by the economy to make cuts that you will feel and see, and to change the way we do business. At the same time, our objective is to keep parks and recreation services available equitably across the city. We were faced with closing community centers and pools. We thought creatively. We came up with ways to avoid any total closures, but there will be changes.
Our 2011 proposed budget contains a carefully balanced array of expenditure reductions, fee increases, and partnerships. These actions will keep all our facilities open by turning the operation of some of them over to community partners. Collectively, these changes will save the city about $10.2 in General Fund expenditures.
We know some users of parks, community centers, and other Parks amenities are upset and believe their favorite facility or service has been singled out or that we don’t value it. We do value it; the reality we face means, simply, that we can no longer provide it all at today’s level or with today’s staffing model.
We are fortunate to have a longtime and trusted partner in the Associated Recreation Council (ARC), a nonprofit organization that serves Seattle by partnering with Parks to offer a variety of recreation and learning programs, classes, and activities: http://www.arcseattle.org/. ARC will play a key role in keeping our facilities operating.
Following are some questions you asked, and answers to them as of today’s date.
How did you choose Green Lake Community Center?
Green Lake Community Center was chosen as a limited use site because Ravenna-Eckstein and Northgate Community Centers are nearby, and because small classrooms place limits on programming.
What will happen if the City Council adopts the proposal in the 2011 budget?
About 25 Parks staff would move to Green Lake Community Center to provide service to the public by helping customers with picnic, wedding, and event permits. This means staff will be on site many hours per day. The level of community center staffing would drop from 6.5 “full-time equivalents” (FTEs) to a half-time custodian and a 0.65 FTE recreation staff person.
What about the construction of the cubicles for the Parks and Recreation staff?
Parks has funding in the 2010 budget to moves of staff out of the Lake Union Park Armory and into other quarters. We apologize for beginning work before Council approval of the budget; one diligent project manager was trying to get his project done by January 4, in the event the Council approves the proposal. The work has stopped and will not begin again unless and until the Council approves the budget. The work consists of electrical and cable upgrades that would have taken place anyway, and the installation of office dividers (no walls). This conversion can easily be reversed.
Why couldn’t you move the staff to other City-owned property such as at Magnuson Park, or to Marshall School?
Parks would have to pay rent at any City-owned property and at Marshall School, which is owned by the Seattle School District. At our own facilities we pay no rent. There is no habitable (e.g., move-in ready) space at Magnuson Park. The only available spaces require millions of dollars of upgrades in order to meet current building codes.
How can you give millions of dollars to capital projects like the ballfield lighting to the south, and then cut funding for Green Lake Community Center?
This question comes up often. In Seattle, the fund sources for capital projects (land acquisition, construction, and major upgrades) are separate from the fund sources for operating budgets (day-to-day staffing, supplies, computers, vehicles, etc.) By law they cannot be commingled.
• The funding for the ballfield projects in Lower Woodland Park, and many other park acquisition and development projects, comes from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy that Seattle voters approved in November 2008. Real estate excise taxes, collected when property is bought or sold, fund upgrades to parks and park buildings.
• The City’s General Fund, which with fees and charges supports Parks and Recreation’s operations, comes primarily from property, sales, business and occupation, and utility taxes. This is the fund that is seeing huge revenue shortfalls because of the recession.
What about Evans Pool and Green Lake Park?
Evans Pool and Green Lake Park will continue to operate as usual; however, regular park visitors will begin to notice the effects of reduced maintenance at the park, another result of budget reductions.
What activities will continue at Green Lake Community Center?
• Age 3-5 Pre-K School
• Adult basketball leagues
• Table Tennis (fee-based programs on Saturday and Sunday)
• Adult and youth pottery
• Tot play space in the gym (will take place Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
• Drop-in basketball (evenings)
• Drop-in volleyball (evenings)
Please note that Green Lake Community Center does not currently feature before- and after-school child care.
What about other programs?
• Teen programs will relocate to Northgate Community Center.
• Creative Dance will move to Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center.
• Tot Dance, Yoga with Baby, and music classes for tots and pre-K (Katy Webber’s classes) will move to Northgate Community Center.
Will any programs be canceled?
• Drop-in chess (Parks staff are working on finding another location for it)
• Private music lessons
• Tot sports
• African dance
• Youth fencing
• Indoor soccer for tots
• Adult yoga
• There will be limited hours of drop-in time for teens and seniors.
• Interaction with professional staff will be limited to drop-in hours.
It seems that the Green Lake neighborhood has been shortchanged in terms of park improvements.
Major park improvements are often funded by bond issued and levies that generous Seattle voters often approve. Recent park improvements in the Green Lake are include, from the 2000 Pro Parks Levy the purchase and development of Linden Orchard and the Shade Plaza between Evans Pool and Green Lake Way; from the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy renovation of two Lower Woodland Park ballfields and the playground; and from other sources, renovation of the Evans Pool HVAC system, repair of the Small Craft Center parking lot, and a new skatepark just to the south of the lake
Here is an overview of the other Parks and Recreation reductions in the Mayor’s proposed 2011 budget.
Parks and Recreation Department-Wide Reductions
• There will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for directors, managers, and strategic advisors, and a 0.6% COLA for other staff.
• Park Maintenance received $1.5 million to maintain new facilities coming online in 2011 that were funded by the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy, the Neighborhood Matching Fund, and other sources. Increased fees will raise the revenue from the Japanese Garden and Camp Long by $51,000, and from recreation and aquatic activities by $1 million.
Recreation Facilities and Programs
• The proposed budget limits the use of five community centers: Alki, Ballard, Green Lake, Laurelhurst, and Queen Anne.
• Rainier Beach Community Center will close for demolition and construction.
Swimming and Boating
• Rainier Beach Pool closes for construction.
• Green Lake and Mount Baker Small Craft Centers begin the transition to operation and management by the Associated Recreation Council, Parks’ nonprofit partner in providing recreation programming. Public hours will be reduced.
• Wading pools will continue at the 2010 service level.
• Public programs related to environmental learning will be eliminated; school-based and ARC-sponsored programs will continue, and the Carkeek Park Environmental Learning Center will be available only for rentals.
Natural Resources Management
• There will be reductions to the grounds crews at the Arboretum and Kubota Garden, and to the Tree and Natural Area Crew.
• Responsibility for lining ballfields and pre-game dragging will transfer to users.
• Frequency of park maintenance will decline, particularly for neighborhood and community parks.
• There will be reduced emphasis on ground litter pickup.
• Routes will incorporate more parks and there will be fewer staff to do winter projects.
• The number of peak-season staff available is reduced.
Skilled Trades Shops
• There are reductions to the Paint Shop, Metal Fabrication, Drainage and Wastewater, and Fencing crews.
• The crafts apprentice program is eliminated.
Planning and Development
Planning and Development is funded primarily by capital fund sources. Reductions reflect that there will be fewer capital projects under way in 2011.
• There will be a reduction in staff support for the Neighborhood Matching Fund program and a reduction in staff’s ability to handle property related requests. The Asset Management System Enhancement Project will be severely delayed.
• A new Plan Review Fee will be implemented.
• The Seattle Conservation Corps staff will be reduced by 0.8 FTE.
Policy Direction and Leadership (Superintendent’s Office)
• In the Superintendent’s Office, two full-time positions are reduced to 0.75 FTE.
• A Manager 3 position is abrogated, and the incumbent moves into a Strategic Advisor 3 position transferred from the Human Resources Division.
• A 0.5 FTE Economist and a 0.5 Strategic Advisor 2 are added to support the development of partnerships, to manage special events, and to provide teen job-readiness programs.
Finance and Administration
• In Human Resources one position is abrogated, two are reduced from 1 to .75 FTE, and one is reduced from 1 to 0.5 FTE.
• In Information Technology, after a Citywide review of staffing levels, there are no changes in the staffing.
• In Accounting, one position is abrogated and another reduced from 1 to .5 FTE.
Thank you again for getting in touch. To see the budget reductions proposed for other City departments, please see http://www.seattle.gov/financedepartment/. Parks and Recreation’s budget will see reductions of $10.2 million.
Acting Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation