Park board defers $3 million funding cut decision
The Vancouver Park Board says it will need at least another week to decide how to cut $2.8 million from its already tiny operating budget.
In a heated public meeting Tuesday night the board decided to defer all decisions, saying it was not given enough time to consult on where to make the cuts.
Items on the chopping block include the children's farmyard at Stanley Park and the Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park, a 40-year-old conservatory home to hundreds of series of tropical plants and birds. Both receive subsidies of more than $100,000 each year from the board.
Mavis Hnidy, a worker at the Bloedel, was among speakers apposed to the plan. She said cutting the conservatory will also sever opportunities for people.
"I see people with disabilities that come in from group centres that they bring those people in there because they may not get a chance to go to Hawaii but there they get a taste of what its like to be on vacation," she said.
Hnidy said attendance at the park has been hurt by Canada Line construction. She added the venue would be great for attracting Olympic tourists but does not receive enough advertising.
The board is considering reducing staffing at community centres to make up revenue, and cut back services like garbage pickup and street tree removal.
The board has already approved a four per cent increase in user fees for next year at parks and recreation centres, as well as swimming pools and fitness classes.
Thomas Hobbs called the cuts a temporary stop gap measure.
"If you take this away this year and you save some money on these cuts then the next year you'll run short of money you'll take away more stuff and we will be left with Winnipeg that is what we will have," Hobbs said.
Paul Faoro of Cupe Local 15 told the board they have a responsibility to the people of Vancouver.
"You have been elected to be guardians of parks and recreation system and citizens of Vancouver relaying you to stand up and defend proper funding for this park system
Park board member Aaron Jasper said the cuts come as a shock to everyone.
"This is unprecedented. I think everyone is just sort of shell-shocked."
The board will now look at staff recommendations about cuts. They are expected to meet again on November 25.
City hall situation
On Tuesday, Vancouver city council was told cost cutting measures have cut the city's $60 million shortfall in half.
The remaining $30 million will come from service reductions, job cuts, and a likely two per cent tax increase.
The city's budget will be finalized by mid-December.
With reports from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgaber and Stephen Smart