That $191 million budget leaves several positions unfilled, but doesn't amount to layoffs. Still, some community members were reluctant to accept any cuts to parks and youth services. They wore stickers that read "Rainy day is NOW' and called on council members to use reserves in order to restore funding to the department. "We believe that youth who are engaged, productive, and have opportunities for them to develop in a healthy way will be productive, responsible adults who work and stay in school and bring further opportunities for us to grow and develop as a city," said Tatiana Vizcaino-Stewart with Building Healthy Communities.
Merced's original budget called for a 34 percent reduction in funding for parks and recreation. Youth and community advocates called it a disproportionate amount compared to other city departments. While council members agreed the programs were important, they said the city just didn't have the money to fully fund the programs. "If it was here, we had it, I'd be more than happy to give it to you, but we just don't have it," said council member Tony Dossetti.
At this point, it's still unknown just how the cuts will impact specific programs within the department. Balancing the budget is still contingent on bargaining agreements with three of the city's unions.