City Council vote will determine if program for disabled teens is off the city budget chopping block
A city program that serves 3,000 teens and young adults with disabilities that was slated for elimination due to budget cuts may be saved if the City Council approves the latest amended budget during its meeting on Tuesday.
The original budget proposal included more than $350,000 in cuts to the Department of Parks and Recreation that would have eliminated three full-time positions and eliminated the Access Leisure program, which provides social and fitness programs, special events and outings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The amended budget restores $125,000 in city funding to the program. Additionally, Access Leisure collects approximately $25,000 from program activity fees, according to a city staff report.
The cuts to the Access Leisure program are among numerous reductions to the city budget that the City Council is faced with, including the proposed elimination of 143 full-time city positions – among those, 45 police officers and 28 fire department positions.
About 30 people addressed the City Council on May 1 about the cuts, urging the council to restore funding. Among them was Brittany Willeford, a 22-year-old woman with an intellectual disability who said the program is an important part of her life.
"We wouldn’t have anywhere else to go for dancing, camping, going to the movies without Access Leisure,” Willeford told the City Council during the meeting. “It is important that we feel like a part of the community, and having Access Leisure lets us do that.”
The amended budget will be enough to restore the program to a 75 percent operating level, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Jim Combs told The Sacramento Press Friday. Social and recreation services, such as bowling, movie outings, field trips and dances, would be in place at that level, Combs said, but the program would no longer include the popular summer camps.
The budget change is partly due to a review of the city’s year-to-date revenue trends: According to the city staff report, the city has been bringing in enough revenue to allow the city manager to adjust the general fund to provide the program funding.
Combs said he believes the change of heart from the city manager’s office about the Access Leisure program comes from more than just an uptick in revenue – it is due in large part to the compelling testimony at City Council of the many people affected by the program’s elimination.
“People were in tears in there,” he said. “It was a moving testimony. This has been a longtime program with this department; it serves an underserved population. The council was very sympathetic to that.”
Alan Tomiyama, recreation manager with the Department of Parks and Recreation, said Monday that he remains “cautiously optimistic” about how the council will vote Tuesday.
“The council clearly heard what the citizens were saying, and we are hopeful they will approve the budget recommendations put forward by the city manager,” Tomiyama said.
Joaquin McPeek, spokesman for Mayor Kevin Johnson, said that the mayor appreciated the outpouring of community support for Access Leisure – and the hard work and collaboration from the city manager’s office and Department of Parks and Recreation.
"If Sacramento truly wants to be a city that works for everyone, we’ve got to find ways to maintain and improve the quality of life for all of its citizens," McPeek said in an email Monday. "Marshaling resources to restore this program does exactly that."