PORTLAND, Ore. -- On Tuesday evening, parents who showed up at a rally to fight for their community center experienced relief.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has decided to change a part of his proposed budget. Michael Cox, Communications Director for the mayor’s office, said all community centers in Portland will be fully funded. The proposed budget was officially filed on Tuesday afternoon.
Previously, in Mayor Wheeler’s proposed budget, two community centers were on the chopping block. Fulton Park and Hillside Community Centers would receive funding through the next fiscal year, but after that, without funding sources the centers would close.
Cox delivered the update to parents and kids who had gathered for a rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza. They were there fighting to save Hillside Community Center. While parents seemed happy to hear about the change, some said they were going to wait until everything is finalized.
Cox said there is a caveat. Portland Parks and Recreation will have to do an analysis to see where it can cut. Mark Ross, Portland Parks spokesman, said under the proposed budget, the department would have to cut $2.2 million. Ross said there have been budget cuts in the last seven of 10 years and even when there was added money, there were often added responsibilities tacked on as well.
Still, parents and their kids who rely on Hillside Community Center, are just happy it looks like it’s sticking around.
“I love my teacher and I love all the things that I do there,” said 4-year-old Milly Young.
Milly goes to preschool at Hillside. The center attracts kids from all walks of life. They go to class there, participate in sports, summer camps, and other after school programs. Milly’s mom Laura said Hillside isn't just for the immediate neighborhood.
“Hillside draws from the Pearl, the waterfront, down into Southwest Hills, over into Forest Park and Forest Heights, down Skyline. We come from all over,” said Laura Young.
Ross said on a recent night, players from 10 different zip codes came out for basketball.
“An estimated 3,200 people around Portland come to Hillside every year,” Young said.
Young and many other parents were concerned after they heard about Wheeler's proposed budget, and the possibility that Hillside would close.
“It's just the heart of our community,” said Annie Holmer, who has kids attending preschool at the center. “A lot of the other programs in the neighborhood are two to three times more expensive and that would be extremely hard for our family.”
“It's so close to my house,” added Holmer’s daughter, Emilyn.
Since the moment they heard about the mayor's proposed budget, community members have been issuing pleas to save their center.
“Please don't close this amazing center that we have for our neighborhoods and community that we absolutely love,” Holmer said.
Cox said the updated version of the proposed budget, with all community centers funded, should be available online by Friday evening.
It’s expected the budget will be approved on May 16 with the council officially adopting the budget on June 7.