SJ budget crisis looms over community programs

March 30, 2010 5:41:36 PM PDT
Between 80 and 100 seniors show up every day for the lunch program at the North Side Neighborhood Center in San Jose. Tuesday, all the chatter over lunch focused on the sad prospect their center will be closing due to the city's $116 million budget shortfall.

Teresa Mationg, 94, has been coming to the center since it opened in 1986. At one time, she was the site coordinator. She is very upset that North Side is one of 27 facilities that will be closed in favor of consolidating the social and nutrition programs at 10 large hubs.

"There are no good choices," says Mona Favorite Hill, who handles public relations for the San Jose Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services agency, referring to the cutbacks in programs and staffing all city departments are facing because of the deficit.

The summer aquatics program is slated to be suspended as a cost-cutting measure, although the staff is going through the process of interviewing summer lifeguards just in case the program is spared. Employees working with youth and seniors must be screened and fingerprinted, so the process cannot be done at the last minute.

Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council will make the final cuts in a series of meetings over the next month or so. Pat de Guzman, 86, was asked if she can convince the City Council to spare North Side Center. "Not in the three minutes they let us speak," she said. It takes her 1.5 minutes just to get to the speaker's podium in the Council chambers, she noted. "What can I tell them in the time that's left?"

About 50 teenagers also use North Side Neighborhood Center as a social center and to participate in dance, sports and arts programs.

Of course, other agencies are also facing severe cutbacks. As ABC7 News has reported, the San Jose Police Department may lose 160 sworn officers and the San Jose Fire Department may lose 86 firefighters unless their bargaining units, along with nine others, agree to 10 percent cuts in pay and benefits to balance the budget.

President Randy Sekany of San Jose Firefighters Local 230 said they will offer the city other ways to generate revenue and to save overtime costs as part of the negotiation process.


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