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Seattle Proposes Cutting, Restructuring Community Centers

Deborah Wang

If you live in Seattle and you take a morning yoga class or play pick–up basketball at your neighborhood community center, you might have to change your routine. The city yesterday unveiled a plan that would cut opening hours at community center hours by about 10 percent next year.


The plan is meant to address a looming budget shortfall. But officials say it will not necessarily result in a reduction of services to residents. KUOW's Deborah Wang reports.

Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation took a big hit during the last round of budget cuts, and for the past year, the city has been looking at community centers for ways to cut even more. Mayor Mike McGinn says the city wanted to avoid shutting any of its 25 centers.

McGinn: "But we have budget realities right now, that means we have to examine how we do business. So this is not the ideal alternative, it's the, it's the best alternative we have."

McGinn is proposing reducing community center operating hours by a total of 10 percent. Most centers would be cut back. But seven centers, called Level 1 centers, would actually see increases in hours.

The idea is that centers in each sector of the city would continue to offer the services they offer today, but they would not duplicate services: one might be open early, one open late, one might specialize in sports and another in arts. There would likely be only one morning yoga class offered, not two or three.

City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is one of the architects of the plan.

Bagshaw: "I know that this is not something that everyone is going to embrace and say, this is the very best thing for me. But we can change, and we can add programs, and we can make sure that the kind of programming in each geographic area is the kind of programming you want."

The plan would save an estimated $780,000. That would go towards filling a $25 million budget shortfall expected in 2012. The equivalent of 13 full–time positions would be eliminated, and 75 community center staff members would be affected.

The city will roll out its plan at community meeting starting later this week, and it's almost certain to face resistance from neighborhoods that are losing service.

Michael Taylor–Judd is a neighborhood activist in West Seattle. He just completed an unsuccessful run for City Council.

Taylor–Judd: "Those who have can get by without using community centers, they'll go elsewhere to find classes to find services, those who don't have are just simply left out in the cold without a choice, and I think we are going to see more impacts to families, we are going to see more youth on the streets getting into mischief, and I think we are going to see more crime, more violence in the city."

The community center plan is a piece of the mayor's 2012 budget. The entire budget document will be presented to the public at the end of this month.

I'm Deborah Wang, KUOW News.

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