Budget blues at Community Centre

By Toni Johnston

How often have you heard the phrase “in these difficult times?” Well, it isn’t just a phrase.

City Council has directed all departments to look at budget cuts and some departments were directed last year to cut budgets. And, woe is me, my favourite place, the Community Centre saw some of these.

Friends were furious that their teenagers couldn’t go swimming until 10 pm and early morning Masters’ swimmers were equally annoyed. Already short of staff and using antiquated computer systems with hand written receipts and registrations, the Community Centre is under the gun. I use the gym, the pool, and fitness classes and am now working with the Theatre Company at the centre. This centre is an important part of my and others daily life. The centre’s director is facing some difficult decisions. Not only are cuts being asked for by City Council for all departments as the tax base is suffering from supporting too many projects (new fire station at RMR for example) with too little money. Never mind the hue and cry from the public about high taxes.

On top of all this, the community centre is being ripped off. Trays, cups, plates, flatware and kitchenware are continually disappearing. Tables are returned damaged or not at all.  Our community works on the honour system and this usually works very well most of the time. The centre just doesn’t have the staffing capacity to count kitchen supplies or even tables and chairs when returned by the users. People use the gym without paying, as staff cannot visually monitor gym use.

Nor should they have to.

Gym equipment is continually being stolen and is now not replaced. Some volunteer organizations that enjoyed freebies in the past now have to budget for Community Centre use and are upset.

Times have changed and budgets are not what they used to be. Therefore, the service cannot be either.

I consider myself fortunate to have a centre like no other for a town our size. I truly do value the honour system and it has served our community well but is it being abused? I applaud our council for working towards keeping the tax rate low and I know that I have to pay for the use of the centre.

We all need to help maintain this user-friendly facility.  Hey, how about a web site and online registration?

Toni Johnston is a very active member of the community