Friday, October 29, 2010
The Norman Park Senior Center in Chula Vista might face closure if the city can't reconcile the $12.5 million budget deficit. Chula Vista City Manager, Jim Sandoval, said that despite other cuts that have been made, the city is still struggling to close the gap.
“We’ve gone through already three rounds of budget cuts in the city. We’ve cut 259 positions and we’ve cut already $40 million. So, all the cuts that are left are really bad choices and the Norman Park Center is one of those,” said Sandoval.
Residents and members of the center are concerned. They say closing the center would hurt seniors who use it for exercise, social interaction and a myriad of classes. Resident Theresa Acerro said that the facility is essential to the community.
“It’s really an incredible amount of services. It really stands out amongst other centers in other cities around the country. So it would be absolutely criminal if this had to close because of finances.”
Senior residents of Chula Vista formed a human chain around the center on Thursday to show their displeasure with its possible closure.
Maria Melendez O’Neill, 76, is a Chula Vista resident and a member of the center. She said she frequents the center because of its salsa dancing and exercise classes. She believes that the budget was mishandled and that closing the center should be an absolute last resort.
“The economy can be bad because budgeting was not done in a proper way” said Melendez. “I was taught growing up that you save money, you spend, but you save money for the rainy days, and some how or another I feel that we’ve lost track of that. I’m praying that they don’t close the senior center.”
Officials at the center are looking for ways to cut their operating costs. They hope that lowering their costs will save the center from being closed as soon as January 1.
With budget cuts already affecting many city services, cutting operational costs to save the senior center is not the only answer. Sandoval said that staffing for recreation services, including the senior center have already been cut by 40 percent, and centers are now running with staffing to an absolute minimum. He said that the city only wants the center to break even and that raising membership costs might be one way to eliminate the gap.
Sandoval said that the passage of proposition H, an update to an existing telecommunications tax, might also help to save services like the Norman Park Senior Center from being cut. If the budget deficit is not reconciled, the center could face closure as early as January 1st.