San Diego Rec Council policy changes impact La Jolla Rec Center

As part of a citywide change in how Rec Councils operate, the La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. (LJPR) board is about to face some “serious” changes to its fundraising operations. The change comes in light of a City Attorney opinion that says all money generated by Rec Centers and Rec Councils is City funds. A resolution amending the City’s “Fee Schedule” will go before the San Diego City Council in December. If adopted, on Jan. 2, 2018, any money not spent in individual Rec Center accounts citywide will revert to the City.

According to the City Attorney memo sent to San Diego Park & Recreation director Herman Parker, area recreation councils generate funds through participation fees for classes at City rec centers and fundraising activities and “While the City may legally delegate authority to the Recreation Councils to administer funds, this does not mean that the City has relinquished its obligation to administer the funds or its right to claim the funds.”

But what of the private donations given for things like La Jolla’s proposed playground renovation and other Rec Center improvements?

To make sure that donations do not end up in the City’s general fund, the board is looking to determine how much of its unspent money came from donations, so they could be kept in a separate 501(c)3 non-profit account and used for the intended purpose.

“It’s very tricky to actually say what is what,” said Park & Recreation area manager Tyler Canales during LJPR’s Oct. 25 meeting. “We have records of any donation that has come in. So we know how much was donated, but we don’t know how much of those donations were expended. There is really no way to tell how that (donated) money was used. It will take some time to figure out some exact amounts.”

For example, recent donations were given to purchase a piano and buy new curtains (already purchased) with the remainder going toward playground improvements. Conversely, another donation from this year was simply for programming and physical building improvements. It is not known how much of that donation was spent.

Should the City acquire all LJPR funds, “That would be a huge concern to me and probably anyone who donated,” opined acting chair Mary Coakley Munk.

The City Attorney opinion came at the request of the City’s Department of Park & Rec following an incident in 2015, when a project by the Doyle Recreation Council raised the question about ways Rec Council funds could be used. The resulting legal opinion came in September of this year.

Canales explained, as a result, a geographical account would be set up “to ensure that the funds that come into this area stay within this area” and that “Rec Councils will be able to operate independently as 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. The biggest difference is you would be solely responsible for any funds that come in through donations. (The City) would have no say in it. You could pay for events, you could pay for whatever.”

As it stands now until Dec. 31, independent contractors who carry out improvements or miscellaneous purchases are paid through LJPR. Once individual Rec Councils are no longer allowed to accept class fees, the money would go to the account for the geographical area and the contractor would be paid from there.

Canales said, “The goal is to continue the Rec Councils in an advisory role, the change would be you would no longer act as a fiscal agent for the City.”

— The next LJP&R Inc. meeting is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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