In recent months, the Lemon Grove city council has looked at ways of reducing the deficit. Projected revenues for fiscal year 2010-’11 are $11.8 million, while expenditures are projected to be $12.7 million.
On April 20, the city council reconvened inside the community center for another budget discussion. On the agenda for the night: should the city continue to offer youth recreation services?
Currently, Lemon Grove subsidizes three recreation programs for children, explained Mike Hale, director of recreation services. Those programs include: organized youth sports such as soccer, flag football, and basketball; a summer and spring day camp; and an after school "drop-in" program, where kids in grades kindergarten through fifth grade can go from 2 to 6 p.m.
The city pays nearly $95,000 per year to fund the youth activities, but Hale presented a plan that would bring that down to $17,000. The plan increases the children to staff ratio, raises fees, encourages utilizing volunteers for some youth sports activities, and includes implementing a daily fee of $2 for the after-school drop-in program.
The city manager offered one additional alternative; ditch the cost-savings plan and try to get the Boys and Girls Club to take over.
"I don't believe it is our job to provide after-school care for kids," said Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom during council comment. Sessom objected to the city subsidizing youth services and preferred the city look into recruiting nonprofits and faith-based organizations to donate money for the services.
Council member George Gastil disagreed. "The subsidy we are talking about is ridiculously low. $17,000? I believe that was calculated to be the cost of the raises that the city council voted themselves two years ago. I was told that $17,000 was not a significant portion and now we find it is."
As Gastil spoke, Mayor Sessom shook her head.
"Let me set the record straight," said Sessom, getting close to the microphone. "Council voted an increase in 2000 and it took effect in 2008. It had been several years. Every member of city council has given back some part of their council pay."
Later, the council directed City Manager Graham Mitchell to abandon the cost-saving proposal and to see whether the Boys and Girls Club wants to take over.