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13 community centre associations of 20 ready to negotiate with park board to figure out a way to share revenue

February 6th, 2013 · 33 Comments

Just to say it one more time for everyone who has had a hard time understanding who is where in this rugby game of park board versus community-centre associations: There is actually a group of community-centre associations that has been ready to negotiate with the park board and that did not take to the streets to declare emergency, as Kerrisdale and Killarney did.

That group, originally 16, put in a counter-proposal mid-January to the park-board “presentations” that general manager Malcolm Bromley had been delivering. In the ensuing uproar, it looks as though three have bailed from that group, not sure which ones. But 13 are still on board.

In any case, the Associations Presidents Group, whose chair is Kate Perkins of Trout Lake, is still willing to give it a go, based on the public declaration from Bromley at the crazy meeting Monday night that he is willing to negotiate about the revenue sharing.

My story on this, along with Daniel Bitonti’s accounts from said crazy meeting Monday, is here. (Pasted below the fold, as they say)

Also, as a handy guide to what is actually under negotiation, this is what I have been able to work out thanks to input from various people. If I still have some things wrong, please let me know.

1. The association counter-proposal said all the associations were willing to accept the park board flexi-pass, the park board leisure access pass (for low-income users), and membership cards from any centre equally at all centres. There is some language about figuring out how to get compensation for some of that.

2. Non-profit societies will continue to exist and continue to apply for federal and provincial grants. It is not the case, as some have said, that they’re all going to be lost. Kate Perkins said there does have to be some care taken to make sure that association staff are supervising those programs and not park-board staff or there could be a risk of ineligibility.

3. The on-board associations are willing to do collaborative budgeting and actually see it as helpful.

4. Still not at all clear to me where things stand re the park board taking over all staffing and collecting all revenue. As above, programs that rely on grants seem to be excluded from that.

5. Really, the biggest sticking point seems to be the model for sharing revenue. It appears to me that the park board wanted to take over all staffing in order to collect all revenue. If another model could be worked out, that might not be necessary. I had suggested in a Branch discussion and I see Stuart McKinnon also suggested something similar that the park board could start charging a rental fee, based on the fees charged and the volume of activities booked. That way, a centre that ran a lot of programs and charged a lot of fees for them would end up paying a bit more. A centre that ran a lot of programs but charged low fees would pay less. A centre that ran many or few programs but charged no fees would pay nothing.

However, as mentioned in my story, Perkins didn’t want to talk about potential financial models, saying there has already been so much misinformation flying around (the natural result of trying to explain complex contract issues to thousands of people in the public who are paying varying levels of attention) that she didn’t want to add to it by negotiating in public.

6. Many of us here in the media are still baffled by the divergence in information presented by the park board and the centres on some issues. The most striking one for me was when Renfrew Park former president David Sexton pointed out that Renfrew did NOT, as Bromley’s presentation stated, only contribute $50,000 to various capital costs at the centre. Instead, the association, which he said fundraised half a million in the community, contributed around $627,000. That made me wonder about all of the math in the park presentation.

7. There’s still a lot of missing information. Bromley’s presentation said taxpayers contribute about $18 million a year to community centres and revenues bring in about $19 million. But I didn’t see anything that said how much revenue the associations collect (and keep) and how much the park board already collects and keeps, since it runs all the rinks and pools.

8. I think I can safely say, on behalf of all of us, that a productive solution is worked out.

It’s kind of cool, when you think about it, that a government operation and a bunch of little volunteer associations jointly run a multi-million-dollar community-centre system. I was impressed by what I heard from association presidents about what their groups do — running childcare programs, raising money to build pools, outfitting their own fitness centres and more. That’s a system to be admired and emulated by others.

But I can also see the point of view of those who say that it’s a bit off for centres to claim they are “fundraising,” when what they are doing is collecting the revenue in buildings built, maintained, heated, lit, and insured by the park board aka all taxpayers as a whole, and then saying that they have no obligation to share with anyone.

It would help all of us, and the negotiating process, if both sides would clarify some of the wrong information they seem to have put out.

The majority of Vancouver community-centre associations are prepared to try to negotiate with the Vancouver park board, says the chair of a group representing association presidents – despite a lengthy and acrimonious meeting Monday night.

The often emotional nine-hour session ended near dawn Tuesday morning with a 5-2 vote by park-board commissioners directing staff to continue negotiating with associations on a way to share program revenue and provide equal access to all centres across the city.

Under the park board’s proposed funding model, the board seeks to oversee the nearly $1-million surplus generated from community centre programs, spreading it around to centres in an equitable fashion. Program fees would become similar across the city, making centres more accessible.

Opponents said Monday evening that the proposed model would limit the ability of community centre associations to respond to the needs of their community – for example, having the resources to build fitness centres when money wasn’t available from the park board.

“Commissioners, I think you’ve been misled. I don’t think you understand the issues at hand,” Lisa Patterson, who said she came to the meeting to represent her family, told the board before the vote. “The park board cannot possibly take an increased role in oversight, in hiring, in programming and not have it cost more money. I don’t think you understand – the associations work for free and for their own individual communities.”

In spite of what many saw as a terrible park-board process, the group representing community centre association presidents says it is willing to try to work out an agreement.

“I think people are feeling a little leery but we’re willing to work in good faith,” said Kate Perkins, chair of the Association Presidents Group and the president of the Trout Lake association.

Ms. Perkins said that at least park-board general manager Malcolm Bromley said publicly at the meeting that the board is willing to negotiate on how the revenues should be shared – the most contentious point in what has been a complex and confusing debate.

Thirteen of the 20 community centre associations are willing to negotiate, Ms. Perkins added. The group is willing to try to start talking by Feb. 16, although Ms. Perkins thinks Mr. Bromley’s three-week deadline is unrealistic.

Currently, the park board and community-centre associations jointly run a nearly $40-million system, where the board contributes $18-million to operations and programs, while another $19-million comes from fees and rentals, much of which is under the control of associations.

The park board says differences in the ability of community centres to generate money have created a system of “have and have-not” centres.

On Monday, some speakers expressed anger that the board made available an updated version of its new proposal only that morning, leaving little time for community-centre associations to sift through the details.

“We feel they [the park board] are leading the public down the path they want for their proposal,” said David Sexton, the former president of the Renfrew community centre association. “We are concerned they are not showing the real numbers, the real process.”

Last week, six community centres put up $200,000 for a campaign advertising what they say are the shortcomings of the new funding model.

Ms. Perkins said she’s hopeful that the board is realizing it is alienating community-centre associations that have traditionally been the moderates.

“If we’re getting mad, they’re doing something wrong,” she said. “You’ve got a bunch of us folks trying to negotiate honestly and we’ve been put in a position where we’ve been pushed.”

Ms. Perkins said there are other models for sharing revenue that do not require full park-board control. She declined to spell them out, saying the negotiations have gotten out of hand as people spread misinformation about the park board initiatives and their impacts.


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