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  Richmond Fiscal Responsibility in Action
July 21, 2004

One of the programs that was de-funded in the recently adopted FY2004-2004 Richmond budget is the Disabled People’s Recreation Center (DPRC). It is a fact that this is a unique and well-run facility that provides an invaluable service to children with special needs and parents who may not be able to afford equivalent private programs.


Despite the prospect of merging the DPRC program into a local, successful non-profit organization, NIAD, and continuing to serve and eventually expand the existing clientele, the City Council voted to continue to operate DPRC for at twice the cost proposed by NIAD. There is no money in the FY 2004-2005 budget for DPRC, and there are no reserves. There is also an $18 million to $28 million cumulative deficit. How did this come about, and what were they thinking?


Almost weekly, parents whose children utilize DPRC (and some children as well) have appeared at City Council meetings to advocate continued operation of the center.


When the prospect of closure was initially raised, I visited the DPRC on April 26, 2004, and talked with both parents and staff. According to staff, the center’s budget at that time was about $150,000/year, which included 2.25 FTE staff, maintenance and utilities.


The center is essentially an after-school program during the school year and a day-care program in the summer. Participation is on a first come, first serve basis with a waiting list of 45 children. There is no preference for Richmond residents. I asked how that policy was set, and staff responded that it had always been that way.


The center is quite large, well kept, and very impressive. Staff is dedicated and hard working.


The center served 10 children and 5 adults. The five adults are paid for by the Regional Center at about $13,000 to $20,000 annually. Parents are charged $70/month per child ($77 non-resident), which brings in about $10,000 to $12,000/year.


Of the current 10 children enrolled, six are Richmond residents, and four live in other cities.


After accounting for the $13,000 to $20,000 reimbursement for adults and the $10,000 or so fees from parents, the cost to operate the center is about $12,000 per child, so the City is subsidizing ten children at $12,000 each, four of whom don’t live in Richmond. The DPRC is a great program, but the cost per client is extremely high.


I asked what the prospects were for obtaining additional outside funding. I was told of a couple of possibilities:


·         Some parents can and would pay more

·         Parents can received child care and “respite” money from the Regional center, which can go to the DPRC, but it has to be “vendorized,” which I take means some kind of agreement with the Regional Center


I asked if there was some model in other cities that were more self-supporting that we could look to. Apparently not. The Richmond DPRC appears to be unique.


Parents and staff seemed to think that moving the program to another City operated community center would substantially degrade it. That’s probably true, considering the quality of the current DPRA facility and staff.


According to the staff, they were all on the layoff list.


One thing that concerned me was that the City of Richmond has been paying $48,000 a year for four non-residents to use the center while Richmond children remain on a waiting list. It would seem that we should charge non-residents at least the full program per person cost.


In considering restoring DPRC to the budget, the following justifications were made:


  • The staff cost was reduced to $75,000 annually by downsizing from 2.25 to 1.5 FTE.
  • The cost of utilities and maintenance was disregarded.
  • The proposed $40,000 first year subsidy, dropping to zero in year 5, proposed by DPRC and the use of  van already owned by the City was compared to the $75,000 City operating cost. ”Heck, its only $35,000 more,” said City Council supporters. “That’s nothing.”


The offer from NIAD to absorb the DPRC program follows:


From: "Pat Coleman"
To: "Diane Harrison"
Cc: "Elias Katz" , "Fernanda Rodrigues" , "John Ziesenhenne" , "Marsha Tomassi"
Subject: NIAD Art Center - alternative plan
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 2004 00:54:45 +0000

Dear Diane,

I'm glad we've been able to talk today about the needs of the 13 people at
DPRC. If DPRC closes it would be a shame for the families of your clients
to be left bereft of fun, socialization, and productive activities. If we
are able to be of service to the City of Richmond for your consumers with
special needs, my Board of Directors and I would be happy to meet with you.

By way of introduction, the National Institute of Arts and Disabilities,
(NIAD Art Center) is a private community-based nonprofit serving the needs
of 50 adults who are disabled. Our hours are 9:00am-3:00pm Monday through
Friday. We have a Saturday morning art program for 10 children with
disabilities. Our focus is the visual arts; our client-artists produce
artwork, and we sell their art for them. We also have independent living
skills classes, enjoy field trips, and have parties. We consider ourselves
family, for many clients we are their family.

Here are some thoughts from our discussion this afternoon.

++ You have 5 adults - We are already vendorized with the Regional Center of
the East Bay as an adult activity center. I believe RCEB could shift the
vendorization for your recreation program from DPRC to NIAD. We would
sponsor the activities and trips, and invoice RCEB.

++ You have an after-school and summer camp program for 8 children. NIAD Art
Cente r closes at 3pm. We'd have plenty of space for a children's program
after school. I understand your children's program is paid for by families
and the City of Richmond. We would have to charge parents some tuition, but
we already have a scholarship fund in place that could support the remaining
costs. I don't know the individual needs of those children, so can't
predict the activities, but we are not restricted to the visual arts. We
have a super sized garden (sunflowers are 10 feet high), an outdoor play
area, a large open indoor space that we can reconfigure for the afternoon
school program. Also, I hope that we could expand from 8-25 children within
two years. I believe we'd have an economy of scale to provide more services

++ Staffing needs - The staff from DPRC has a high reputation. Perhaps they
would be able to work at NIAD. I understand that your ratio is 4 clients to
1 staff member. We would keep t he ratio the same. The ability to care for
clients with abundant attention and interesting activities makes a proud
program. The administration is already in place and costs would not be that
much greater.

++ Money - Currently, we have an ample scholarship fund. I believe, also,
that we can raise more from foundations and corporations. As a nonprofit,
we're adept at raising money. NIAD's Board of Directors is committed to
fundraising. So far, we have been able to keep our organization in the

++ Sustainability - Our goal is to continue our services into the future. We
will need help from The City of Richmond. We have no transportation
service. I hope the The City would continue to provide a van for field
trips. Also, starting up is a costly endeavor. Perhaps The City could
contribute $40,000 the first year, decreasing to zero after five, or
increase their role as money becomes more available and we could d ecrease
the length of your children's waiting list.

If you'd like to talk further, Diane, I'd be happy to meet with you. It's
difficult to solve problems creatively without knowing specific information
like cash-flow, the program curriculum, staff qualifications, and other
details. I believe there is a way for the participants at DPRC and clients
at NIAD to have a winning solution.

I look forward to talking with you.

Best wishes,
Pat Coleman
Executive Director
National Institute of Arts and Disabilities
551 23rd Street
Richmond, CA 94804