Community centres protest parks board’s plan to take revenue
Community centre associations say a new joint operating agreement with the parks board fails to respect their autonomy
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An old conflict is again raising its head: the parks board versus volunteer community centre associations, who say a new joint operating agreement with the parks board fails to respect their autonomy and ability to create community-specific programming.
In 2013, six community centre associations sued the parks board over the imposition of the OneCard, a card that gave universal access to all residents to programs at community centres across the city. Prior to the OneCard, community centres required users to buy an association membership.
At the heart of the current conflict is the parks board’s requirement that community centre associations give two per cent of community centre gross revenue to the parks department.
“People are not necessarily opposed to making sure there is money that ensures good service,” said Alex Burton, a member of the board at Mount Pleasant Community Centre, “but the parks board wants to just put a levy on us and then use that money for their own programs without any input from the community centres.”
Fifteen community centres, including Mount Pleasant, have been negotiating with the parks board, but say they have concerns with the parks board’s proposal. Six associations are not negotiating at all, said Burton.
The intent for the two per cent fund is that it be redistributed to community centres in lower-income neighbourhoods, said Malcolm Bromley, general manager of parks and recreation for the City of Vancouver.
“In the system right now there’s about $14 million in the bank that they’ve accumulated over the years,” Bromley said. “We don’t want to take that money, that’s theirs, but we think there’s some extra capacity in the system to spread around to some of the centres that have financial challenges.”
The proposed agreement will also ensure that low-income people will be able to access community centre programming through the parks department’s existing Leisure Access Program, Bromley said.
“Since 2013, we’ve had it in place at 12 of the centres which signed an interim (joint operating) agreement,” Bromley said. “But there are six associations that refuse to accept it.”