Oct 212010
Authors: Keeley Blakley

The Northside Aztlan Community Center could face huge cuts to its budget in the next two years if Issue 2B, which aims to increase the local sales tax by .85 percent, does not pass.

Currently, the city of Fort Collins has a sales tax of 6.7 percent, which is lower than Denver, Boulder and nine other major Front Range cities, according to the 2011-2012 City Manager’s Recommended Budget report. The funds from this tax increase would go to transportation, parks and recreation and several other projects in the community.

The Fort Collins community center, which opened a new building about three years ago, provides a drop-in recreation center, as well as classes, for all ages groups from infants to seniors.

“We try to figure out how we can best meet the needs of the community,” said Debra Bueno, the recreation supervisor at the Aztlan Center.

The Aztlan Center could see its budget cut by $141,000 in 2011 and $430,000 in 2012 if Issue 2B does not pass. The recreation center could lose three full-time positions in 2011, including Bueno’s position. They would also lose several hourly positions.

“At this moment, I’m just hoping 2B passes,” Bueno said.

Councilman Wade Troxell, D-4, opposes Issue 2B because he disagrees with the wording of the ballot issue. Troxell said that under Issue 2B it is not clear that the Aztlan Center would receive funding.

“As it is written, (Issue 2B) does not meet the needs of the community,” Troxell said. “Its just business as usual, instead of reflecting the hard economic times.”

Councilman Ben Manvel, D-1, said, because of the community reaction, the Aztlan Center would almost certainly benefit from the proposed sales tax.

All of the center’s programs for low-income children would have to be cut by 2011 if Issue 2B fails. The youth and teen programs would be cut out entirely as well.

Basically, the programs that have lower fees to the community and are the most expensive for the city will be cut, said Marty Heffernan, director of cultural, library and recreational services for the City of Fort Collins. Meaning many programs that are heavily used by low-income families will be cut, including the after-school enrichment program and summer day programs.

The after-school program provides tutoring, exercise and a variety of activities to low-income students in the community. Parents pay $3 a week for the program.

Joe Cordova, 23, a teacher at the after-school program, said it is really about helping students meet their full potential.

“It is very important that we have an educated community,” Cordova said. “We have to start with the youth.”

Cordova has seen what happens when children go down the wrong path. The Aztlan Center provides these youth with an opportunity to keep themselves on the right track, Cordova said.

“We understand their circumstances aren’t ideal,” Cordova said. But without the after-school program, these children would be losing a sense of community.

Some of the teachers for the after-school program are in high school or college, and others are community members. There are volunteers and paid employees that work in the program.

“I like working with children; I like being a mentor and a role model,” Cordova said.

If Issue 2B does not pass, there will likely be other proposals from the Fort Collins City Council or citizen groups to raise funds, Manvel said. Though, in the meantime, the city would have to make some cuts and Fort Collins could go into a slow decline.

“We chose to live in Fort Collins because we have a great community,” Bueno said. “(Residents of Fort Collins) need to examine how important these services are to them.”

Staff writer Keeley Blakley can be reached at new@collegian.com.

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