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Despite Fee Spike, 'March Madness' to Encourage Participation at Community Center

Stark adjustments to community programs transfers financial burden to both residents and nonresidents as Campbell wrestles with its $3.2 million shortfall.

To resolve a $3.2 million deficit, Campbell adopted a "budget correction strategy" that aims to restore city reserves through stark adjustments to its Recreation and Community Services Department, a common trend among cities during times of economic downturn.

The department is Campbell’s primary source of revenue for the 2010-11 fiscal year, raking in a projected $421,000, according to the reduction strategy.

“We are the single largest department outside of public safety, so it’s logical to look to us to see what we can do,” said Cynthia Bojorquez, director of the city's recreation and community services. “We’re doing the best that we can in a tough situation to try and help the overall city budget.”  

To generate revenue, Campbell raised community service program fees to backfill city reserves, transferring the financial burden directly to resident and non resident participants.

“I think increased fees will cut into the number of people participating,” said Mark Sasao, a physical therapist and San Jose resident who uses the Campbell Community Center. “That’s what draws a lot of people here, a reasonable price for the services they provide.”

Nonresidents like Sasao are absorbing the brunt of the fee spikes, because the city re-instituted a nonresident registration fee for all classes and programs.

The fee ranges from $5-$10 depending on the price of the class and is predicted to generate $81,000 in revenue, the most lucrative community service adjustment according to the reduction plan. A flat $4 nonresident registration fee will be charged for classes at the Adult Center.

“Without a doubt the economy and any price increase affects our participation,” Bojorquez said. “We have seen a drop in our nonresident numbers, and we are going to be doing some special promotions in March to try and get those folks back.”

Once the Community Center increased drop-in fees for adult lap swim, fitness classes, weight room, gym and corporate passes from $5-$7, participation on the basketball court drastically declined, said John Dyer, 48, an analyst at Cisco Systems. 

“We used to get between 20-25 people here and close to 40 people on Fridays,” Dyer said. “Now we have a hard time getting 12. So that was a real killer.”

General fee increases for adults at the Campbell Community Center include a $6 hike for resident memberships and a $10 increase for nonresidents. Adult Education class fees were increased, as well as individual participant fees for fitness, tennis and sports classes.

Other adjustments include instituting a $25 annual membership fee at the Campbell Skate Park, boosting adult sport league fees by at least 10 percent and up to 13 percent, eliminating adult softball, increasing all monthly swim program fees and swim lesson fees by $5.  

Like many people these days, Dyer understands that Campbell needs to generate revenue but expressed concern about the plan the city has adopted.

“If they’re looking for money, they need to find the right price point,” he said, “and $7 isn’t it.”

Some of next month’s “March Madness” special promotions, Bojorquez said, will include temporary fee reductions and encouraging people to purchase an $80 20-visit pass. A 20-visit pass reduces the price per visit to $4, the most economical option when compared to a $7 drop-in pass or last year’s $5 fee.

Despite a slow economic recovery, Bojorquez remains positive and excited about "March Madness" and hopes it will increase community participation.

“We want people to use our facilities, and we’re going to do our best to get them on in,” she said.

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