The Departments of Parks and Neighborhoods took the greatest hits in the proposed 2011 budget.  The Parks Department lost dozens of employees, with five community centers cut back to limited use status, while the Department of Neighborhoods was cut by 18.2% — almost three times as large as the total budget reductions.

The Council restored significant parts of these budgets.  In Parks, the proposed budget cut drop in hours by up to 80% in the community centers proposed for ‘limited use’, with no plans for future restoration of services, and three community spaces converted to offices.  The Council added funds to restore an additional 15 hours of drop in time at the Green Lake, Laurelhurst, and Queen Anne Community Centers, and also turned down two proposed conversions of community rooms to office space.  The Council continues to look for replacement space to eliminate other proposed office conversion, and do not agree that office space should be the long-term plan for the Green Lake Community Center.

In the Department of Neighborhoods budget, the Council restored a number of cuts that had been made to neighborhood programs, including:

  • $300,000 to the Neighborhood Matching Fund
  • Three of the six District Coordinator positions that had been cut
  • A position in the Landmarks/Historic Preservation program
  • The West Seattle neighborhood service center and utility payment office.

The City faces difficult decisions on the future of our community centers and neighborhood programs.  There are significant challenges in the Seattle budget over at least the next three or four years that make it unlikely that we can fully restore these programs at the level that they have operated at in the past.

However, we do not accept the premise that we must resign ourselves to losing these important services.  Instead, the Council proposes to embark on a full review of community center operations and Department of Neighborhoods services in 2011.  Our goal is to engage Department leadership, employees and their unions, and the public in a reexamination of the staffing and operations planning for these two services.  We think we can ‘reinvent’ community center and neighborhood service center operations to find ways to provide appropriate levels of service to all of our neighborhoods, in the context of budget limitations.

This may mean consolidation of facilities, new staffing plans, and/or realignment of programs and hours, as well as developing new relationships with service providers such as the Associated Recreation Council to share staffing and program operations.  It will not be an easy exercise, but it is a critically important one for our neighborhoods and families.

The Council is also committed to making decisions on these kinds of services in an open, transparent, and deliberative manner, with full public participation and involvement.  We will ask the community to work with us, acknowledge the constraints we are working under, and join in the serious reexamination of how we can best meet community needs in a time of difficult budget decisions.

We hope and believe that this future work will result in revitalized community center and neighborhood service centers programs in the future.