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City Officials Propose Trims to Community Programs

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

May 29, 2019 -- Santa Monica will likely tighten its belt by scaling back or eliminating underused programs at community centers, swimming pools and schools, City officials said Wednesday.

The cutbacks are part of a strategy for the proposed 2019-21 Biennial Budget that calls for using general fund money to pay $16.6 million towards the City's pension debt ("City Should Immediately Boost Annual Pension Payments, Report from Top Finance Official Recommends," April 23, 2019).

The strategy -- which includes leaving 30 full-time positions unfilled -- comes as the City grapples with rising costs, changing business practices and slowing revenue streams, officials said.

"Our goal is to create a 21st Century government that works better and costs less by thinking long-term and making prudent choices," officials said.

The cutbacks were proposed by the Community and Cultural Services Department, which identified "programmatic and operational changes that could be implemented with minimal impact to participants."

If approved, the changes would go into effect in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The proposed changes include phasing out the City-run aquatics programs at the Lincoln Middle School Pool, which has struggled to attract participants since it was started two and a half years ago.

Despite efforts to market this program, officials said, "participation rates are minimal, with an average attendance of 7 patrons per day for the past six months."

Patrons would be directed to the Santa Monica Swim Center, which is switching to a set schedule that closes the facility for six weeks, from mid-December to February 1, to perform required maintenance.

In the past, the pool has been closed from three to 12 weeks, depending on the maintenance required, causing "uncertainty among user groups," officials said.

Staff's proposals also would phase out CREST's Late Start and PM Extended Care programs offered at public elementary school campuses, which would end in the fall.

It also would phase out CREST's AM Care programs at three remaining sites. Participants would be directed to other CREST programming or alternative services provided by the School District.

Summer Camps offered by the City through CREST would also be "modified, consolidated, or reduced" based on demand or duplication of services.

In addition, staff is proposing to phase out the KidZone Saturday programming at Virginia Avenue Park and redirect patrons to other options.

With the opening of the Pico Branch Library, the 14-year-old drop-in program for children during Farmers Market hours "has become a secondary activity for a small number of patrons," staff said.

The proposals also include eliminating the Police Activities League (PAL) Saturday programming at the Youth Center and Fitness Center, which was phased out last month.

"These Saturday morning programs have been minimally attended and other opportunities have been identified during these hours," staff said.

The City Council will take up the proposed cutbacks during its budget hearing next Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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