SJ budget crisis threatens city-owned pools

April 6, 2010 8:53:27 PM PDT
The city of San Jose is staring down a budget deficit of about $116 million dollars and city leaders decided Tuesday afternoon to stop operating seven of nine city-owned pools. But that does not necessarily mean the pools will close.

Six-year-old Iliana Meratz just learned she will not be able to swim at Ryland Pool this summer.

"It's kinda sad, so many of many kids like to go to that pool and I really like to go to that pool too," she said.

Ryland is one of seven city pools which San Jose will close this summer. Only Camden and Mayfair pools will remain open.

More than 59,000 people use the city's pools and its aquatics programs year round, but the city cannot afford to keep them open.

"The gap in the city budget next year is so great that nothing is immune from cuts," Mayor Chuck Reed said.

Reed does not see any other option. The city is facing a $116 million budget deficit. It is asking the unions for a 10 percent wage and benefit cut to try and rescue services, but so far no deal has been reached.

"We've got 11 unions we have to bargain with and so far we have no proposals for concessions," Reed said.

One proposal on the table is trying to get non-profits to operate the pools and save the city $600,000 in operating costs.

The only dissenting vote in the 10-1 vote to close the pools Tuesday came from Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio. He proposes contracting out daytime cleaning at City Hall as they do at night. He says the private firm costs one-third of what they pay union daytime crews.

"We'd save well over $1 million, so we can use that for city aquatics programs or use it to keep every library, citywide, open for an extra day every day of the week," Oliviero said.

The council has ordered staff to try and find someone to help keep the aquatics program afloat.


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