Audrey Shooner,center, and Dharma Patel ,left, and Avalon Richard practice during gymnastic’s class at the Mason Community Center. (Tony Tribble for the Enquirer)
Carrie Blackmore Smith reports:
When local governments are forced to cut back on services, community centers and their programs often appear at the top of the list of perks a community can survive without.
Enter Colerain Township, one of the region’s largest communities, where officials have cut some programming this year but managed to scrape together funds to keep their center running. Now they’re searching for a long-term solution to afford the community center. In Cincinnati, three community centers and six pools are on the chopping block, part of the Plan B solution to ease a $35 million budget deficit.
But Springfield Township and others – including on a larger scale, Mason – are bystepping that pressure by turning their centers into self-sustainable operations, an uncommon occurrence in the region.
And they’re not relying on cuts to get there. Instead, they’re adding new features.
Turning the revenue tide
Few local governments want to make their centers solvent; some consider the costs well worth the value and haven’t felt pressure from residents or elected officials to match revenues with costs. Other centers are clearly struggling, but aren’t quite sure how to deal with it.
Ohio Municipal League spokesman Kent Scarrett said he hasn’t noticed a trend of governments trying to balance community center budgets but wasn’t surprised to hear it’s happening in Southwest Ohio.
“It makes sense,” Scarrett said. “Obviously, money is tight … and these services and community activities benefit the social fabric of communities.”
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