Unless someone steps forward with bags of money, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum will close, the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum will close, the Beach Flats Community Center will close, the Harvey West Pool will close, the Teen Center will lose its building, several city workers will lose their jobs, and the rest of the city employees—including management and the city council—will see a 10 percent reduction in pay. And that’s just the beginning.
The city has been slowly slashing budgets since 2002, but up until now, every cut has been invisible to the public, because they’ve come in the form of projects delayed or government jobs left unfilled. This phase of the budget cuts, dubbed Phase 9, is the first to reveal to the city’s residents just how troubled the government’s balance sheet is. A total of $6 million in cuts were proposed at the city council meeting on Dec. 9, and of those, $4.2 million must be enacted by January. The pain doesn’t end there, however, as another $2 million or so is expected to needing in spring if no new revenue is found. All of this is to stave off the complete depletion of the city’s cash reserves—which it has been drawing upon to keep the government up and running—and the spectre of a bankrupt government, unable to issue paychecks to its employees or carry on any infrastructure projects.
Closing the Surfing Museum, Natural History Museum, Beach Flats Community Center, and Harvey West Pool would save the city a total of $572,000 annually. But residents were not sympathetic to the plight before the council. Surfing Museum advocates wondered how the council could close the building that serves as the city’s logo, and which brings in 35,000 visitors a year; the Natural History Museum’s advocates wondered how children would be educated about the importance of the environment they’re growing up in; Beach Flats community members marched and rallied (with many banging drums and cheering from the front lawn due to overcrowding in the chambers) and pointed out that the community center has transformed the neighborhood from being a nest of drug dealers and gangs; and advocates of the pool—who were sadly under the impression that the council was only going to curtail the months of operation, not close the pool altogether—simply wondered how a beachside town could afford to not teach its children and residents how to swim.