After years of cutting its recreation programs, Clovis is hiring new recreation workers and adding 10,000 square feet to its recreation center.
It's the latest signal that the Clovis economy is recovering. The city is adding programs at its recreation center after five years of budget slashing.
After the real estate market crash lowered home values and property tax revenues, the city's general fund budget was cut. General fund dollars pay for public safety, recreation, senior services, some streets and parks.
Clovis, which started making budget cuts shortly after the housing downturn began, is among the first Valley cities to see a turnaround in its financial fortunes.
"This is an opportunity we haven't had in five years after making major reductions in quality-of-life programs," City Manager Robert Woolley said. "We have been able to restore core public-safety services for three years and now we can restore these quality-of-life programs."
By contrast, Fresno took another approach, getting businesses, church groups and students to adopt parks or recreation centers and use volunteers.
"We evolved and continued services without resources that we used to have," said Shaun Schaefer, a Fresno community recreation supervisor.
Visalia also had trouble funding recreation services and lost three or four workers to retirement, said Vince Elizondo, the city's director of parks and recreation. He said the city backfilled full-time workers with part-timers.
"Even though our economy was in a bad place, our participation went up," he said.
Clovis trimmed three of five full-time jobs and cut the number of part-timers to 10 from 30 to 35 since 2007.
This year, full-time staff is up to three and the city will hire 15 to 20 part-time workers, said Bryan Hines, the city's recreation coordinator.
The most notable change is the nearly finished north side of the recreation center, adding about 50% more space. It will house basketball and volleyball courts and allow the city to offer additional league programs when it opens in January Hines said.
The first programs are sports-oriented: basketball, volleyball and soccer. There also will be tee-ball for younger participants.
Don't expect to see these new recreational offerings in a glossy catalog in your mailbox, as in the past, he said.
The focus is shifting to advertising online through the city's website and through city utility bills, Hines said.
"We are trying to find out what the best way is to reach every household," he said.
The city, which ran more than 140 recreation programs before the cuts began in 2007, will increase its programs from nine to about 35 in January.
As new sports programs roll out, they must pay for themselves, which means the city will not use general fund money to subsidize them.
But Hines said the city's programs will remain less expensive.
"I think the community is OK with that because anything we run will always be cheaper" than privately operated programs, he said. "Because we don't have to profit, that's where the savings are going to be."
Expansion of the recreation center's gym will cost about $116,000, but the city is seeking donations to pay for wall-mounted basketball hoops — adjustable for all leagues — and volleyball nets and equipment, said Shonna Halterman, the city's general services manager.
Equipment could cost up to $30,000, she said.
Officials with The Color Run, a 5-kilometer run, plan to donate proceeds to Clovis Area Recreation from its Oct. 13 event that starts at Sierra Vista Mall, Halterman said.
"This is an opportunity we haven't had in five years after making major reductions in quality-of-life programs." — Robert Woolley, Clovis City Manager
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