The Dallas Park and Recreation Department plans to cut operating hours by more than 25 percent at recreation centers, including five in and around Preston Hollow, as part of the city’s overall budget cuts to eliminate a $190 million deficit.

While nothing is finalized (the city council hasn’t even formally seen the proposal) the reduced hours will save “several million dollars,” said Assistant Director Dave Strueber.

Rec centers like Walnut Hill, Bachman and Polk, currently open 55 hours each week, will be reduced to 40 hours. Smaller centers like the Marcus Annex will go from 40 hours to 30.

“The impact that the city is going to feel on this is not yet fully understood,” Strueber warned. “Folks need to understand what’s potentially coming their way.”

Currently, rec center staffs set their own hours based on the programming schedule. The proposal would create set hours for all Dallas rec centers – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday.

The centers will be closed on the weekends.

“That’s going to have a large affect on families,” Strueber said. “Saturdays are typically the days you see the whole family up at the rec centers.”

With the cuts will come a reduction in programming. While some programs will be rescheduled, others won’t make the cut. Strueber said the priority is on preserving the after-school programs.

“We’re basing the hours on kids first,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of the kids, we got to do the after school programs. That is job number one.”

Paulette Davis, general manager of the Campbell Green Rec Center, believes if the centers are going to be open less, each center should be allowed to set its own hours. Doing so will let the centers accommodate their neighborhoods more effectively, she said.

“If we can rearrange schedules, then we’ll move classes to different times or different days to keep them on our schedule,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll tell us 40 hours, and we can pick the 40 hours so we can adjust our schedules to accommodate as many programs as possible.”

Strueber said that’s not off the table, but is not part of the current proposal.

The reduced hours means staff members will be laid off. Each of the city’s 47 rec centers will lose one position and will not be allowed to hire part-time help.

Despite the potential doom and gloom, Strueber and Davis both believe the department and its staff will do everything it can to keep its commitment to the community.

“We’re not going to lay down on this, we’re going to do the best we can to provide quality programs with the cards that have been dealt to us,” Strueber said.

“The people who work in the centers are going to try to minimize the impact as much as possible,” added Davis.

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