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Cincinnati's rec centers stretched thin by maintenance costs, canceled memberships

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Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 20:57:46-05

The Cincinnati Recreation Commission is behind, director Daniel Betts told City Council Tuesday.

Although recreation centers across the city’s 52 neighborhoods have opened to serve new purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic — first as isolation sites, later as vaccine clinics — they’ve lost nearly 40% of their revenue from memberships and are facing $70 million in deferred maintenance costs.

And city budget director Chris Bingham is asking all of the city’s departments, not just CRC, to look for ways to lighten the 2022 budget.

“CRC is overextended,” Betts said. “If we don’t do something to address the fact that we can’t be in all 52 communities, then we may have to look at consolidating resources.”

Betts said he believes a future tax levy could help CRC replenish some of its lost funds. Councilman David Mann agreed the idea was worth consideration.

"We need to get caught up,” Betts said. “And that (deficit) number, if we don't address it and have a plan to address it, that number is only going to get worse."

The first version of the 2022 budget will be released in early May. Bingham, the budget director, said decisions made this spring are not final — he’s encouraged department directors to reexamine their own budgets but has not committed to specific cost-cutting measures.

"If there is discussion about closing a facility or doing something different, it is merely a brainstorming exercise at this point,” he said.