City officials have dual goals for the Ceres Community Center:
1). Achieve a balance between revenues and expenditures;
2). Pay off $1.6 million of the operational deficit – accumulated over the past decade – and erase it within 10 years.
The method in which to accomplish the matter goal, however, remains to be answered.
On Monday members of the Ceres City Council agreed on a number of changes to get the Community Center – the focal point of community events and the city’s recreation programs – to where it’s not a drain on taxpayers. The action follows a recent ordering of Community Center rental and recreation program fee hikes.
The city opened the $6.8 million, 25,623-square-foot center in 2009. At the time of its opening, the city knew it faced annual operational deficits of about $110,000 to $155,000 annually. In recent years as use has picked up and increased revenues, the deficit has slowly come down. The 2019-20 fiscal year budget adopted in June shows a deficit of $113,000. Because the city has agreed to allow the Big Valley Grace Christian Church to operate in the center on Sundays and will receive revenue, that deficit is expected to fall to $52,000. That does not consider the additional revenues expected from fee increases.
To cover losses for the first three years the city crafted a plan to free up $374,000 in Ceres Redevelopment Agency funds by “selling the historic Daniel Whitmore home to the CRA. All redevelopment agencies have since been abolished by the state.
One step agreed upon is closing the center’s computer lab to save money. The city is currently in its last year of a lease for those computers and doing away with the lab will save $15,000 annually future equipment leases. City Manager Toby Wells said the room could be used to generate additional revenue through rentals. Councilman Channce Condit was the lone member against closing the computer lab.
Recreation Manager Matthew Lohr said the church’s offer to upgrade the center’s audio-visual system is also bringing back more corporate rentals who depend a better sound and video system. Lohr said the city will also continue to push for more businesses and manufacturers to rent the large and small assembly room during the week.
Wells also recommended the city abandon its enterprise accounting method so that expenditures will be included in the General Fund and not its own account.
Mayor Chris Vierra said he liked the idea of whittling down the $1.6 million debt to the General Fund over the next 10 years.
Condit repeated his desire – which was ignored – for the council to forfeit its medical benefits to help erase the Community Center’s operational deficit.
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno stated her belief that placing the center in its own line item in the General Fund would allow the council make overall budget decisions.