On this page:
- Sept 4: The Park Debt is paid off
- Aug 16: Update - $2627.25 donated already
- Aug 12: Notices - ways to help
- August 11: We're in the Hole but Getting Out
- August 6: Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Sets Fundraising Goal
- Aug 5 Original notice: Our Park is Broke
Sept 4: The Park Debt is paid off
Faster than we thought possible, the park is back in the black. To recap: It looked grim on August 4, when we found out that the back wages owed to park staff amounted to almost $9000, and that there was not enough money in the city's summer budget for our park to cover this debt, nor even enough to run the park until the end of the summer.
How did this happen? There had been, as is not uncommon in the city bureaucracy, a very long delay between staff being hired and them getting their city number (there's a huge number of staff city-wide, and it gets complicated). One application was lost in the system without our knowing, and when we tracked it down, the lengthy process (3 months) of getting the required a police check to make sure she was not a terrorist or a child molester had to start all over. That staff person alone was owed over $5000 (she started in April, and the busier the park got, the more hours she worked). The park staff thought the paycheck delay was a heaven-sent chance for enforced saving, so they got by on the cash wages they were paid for "friends of the park" activities and didn't complain about the absence of city paychecks as early as they might have. And Jutta, wanting more staff to work more hours so she could work on her book rather than working in the park, was not paying as close attention as she should have been.
How was it fixed? When we found out the extent of our troubles, we cleaned out what was left in the "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park" bank account to start paying back wages, and then the park staff got together and made a plan. Instead of getting rid of staff they all took lower wages and did some of the work for free. This meant that the fund-raising target was lowered. Then we put up some posters in the park, Jutta mentioned our troubles on the weekly market news e-mails, and good things began to happen:
Cash donations: By August 9, the staff were still owed $8385.72. Over the next three weeks, cheques arrived in the mail or were dropped off at the park, in amounts between $20 and $500. A few cheques were from grandparents in other cities. Some of the benefactors were known to us, some not. Some families who probably have little grocery money to spare, still gave us a donation. A colourful donation jar that staff person Bianca Morgan made for the wading pool got coins and bills. Jutta was stopped when she was in the park and people gave her their money. When the staff tried to give change to diners at Friday night supper, it was sometimes refused. Two wonderful local cooks, Lindsay Karabanow and Suchada Promchiri, dropped off food donations for us to sell at the food cart: rotis from Lindsay (she sells them at the farmers' market too) and mini-croissants and other confections from Suchada (who's about to open a pastry-shop at College and Dovercourt). A friendly woman whose name we don't even know came by twice with tasty Jamaican ginger-peanut brittle and banana bread that she had made, which we sold as well. By September 1, we had received $4127.61 in donations. But that was not all -
Good weather: the cool weather let go its grip enough in August that the park food sales went up, both at the food cart by the wading pool and at Friday Night Supper. The summer baking staff baked their heads off and raised more money selling bread at the farmers' market. So the park food income by the end of August was $13,923.58. After the August park supplies ($532.05) and the groceries ($4701.41) were deducted, that left $8690.12.
Farmers: we always charge the farmers a "table fee" for coming to the market (the cheapest in the city, actually - $10 per table-length plus $5 if they need to borrow a table from us). That's used to cover the market staffing and related expenses. In August, the market table fees came to $1258, so that added some more to our total income. (On top of that, the farmers donated produce here and there, lowering our Friday Night Supper grocery costs).
City winter funds: The city let us re-direct some funds from the December rink allocation to help keep the wading pool going. That means that the rink snack bar income will have to help run the rink - but there's nothing new in that. So the city contributed $4154.84 to the summer program and debt repayments from August 9 to Aug. 29.
Jutta's writing holiday: Jutta took a month off from writing her park book (writers love to procrastinate anyway) and turned her attention back to the park more fully.
Results: the wading pool stayed open, and most of the other summer activities carried on. By August 29, all overdue staff wages were paid off, and there's a cushion of just over $600 back in the "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park" bank account, so we can pay for the next park organic flour order and the groceries needed for all the park events in September. On September 1, the staff ripped down all the green "we're in trouble" posters that we'd posted in the park. Wonderful. What a relief.
Aug 16: Update - $2627.25 donated already
Ever since we found out on August 4 that we overspent the summer staff budget for the park for this year, we've been scrambling to get out of the hole. Good news: by the end of this past week (August 15), we had taken in a total of $7703.22 ($2627.25 in direct donations and the rest in other fundraising activities). So we were able to pay the staff for running the park last week, and we also paid down -- by $3690.17 -- the debt to staff for wages owed from before.
Although the staff are still owed $3252.55 in back wages, that's much less than before.
In the 11 years that the "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park" have been in existence, we never had to ask for donations from park users, and we'd like to return to that state. People already pay for parks through their taxes, and they shouldn't have to be passing the hat as well. However, since we got into this hole and had to ask for help, the response from the neighbourhood has been wonderful. (Not only in money donations either -- park friend Michelle Webb organized a picnic-table/bench/park chair painting day on August 15, and as a result the park now has a fresh coat of paint on over half the park furniture.)
Aug 12: Notices - ways to help
Got odd jobs? Hire park staff.
Many of the staff were working to save for further schooling or for travelling -- they are a sparkling diverse imaginative group of folks. Now they are willing to do lots of different short-term work in the neighborhood -- painting, child care, research, data entry, food preparation, landscaping, whatever they can get to make up the lost wages from the park. Think hard, dear park friends, this is your chance to have some remarkable people do work for you, for a short time.
Donate if you can: $25, or $50.
We have to pass the hat. This is people's chance to give the park a donation. In the week since we found out the bad news, we've been getting a steady stream of checks and bills and so we've already been able to pay off some arrears. We still need to collect almost $7000 (the good news is, at first we thought we needed $17,000). That means there will be a few special events in the park to help raise the money, and all donations are appreciated. $25 is nice and so is $50. A few kind souls are giving even more. All donations can be handed to the park staff. Cheques should be made out the "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park." To mail: c/o 242 Havelock St. Toronto M6H 3B9.
SUNDAY AUGUST 15 8 P.M.: BENEFIT PERFORMANCE AT THE PARK
Some of the park staff or former staff are also in theatre. Current staff Dalal Badr and former staff Lea Ambros and Kyle Cameron are performing in The Counterfeit Marquise at this year's Summerworks Festival. They have arranged to put on one park performance at the end of the festival, pay what you can (all proceeds to the park). This is a new version of a shadow-puppet play with music and narration. Its language is poetical and philosophical but despite (or even because of) this, the children at the Summerworks matinee performance at Theatre Passe Murreille looked spellbound for every moment of the 40-minute show. A wonderful chance, too, to see Dalal Badr perform while she's still unknown (she just graduated from the National Theatre School in Montreal). In years to come, we can say we knew a great actress when she worked at the food cart and Friday Night Supper. Performance near the Field House at 8 p.m., with torchlight. Inside the rink house if it rains.
Sunday August 15 Benefit for Bianca Morgan
On Sunday evening park staff person Bianca Morgan is having a benefit at the El Mocambo, to help her pay for going to Kenya with Canada World Youth in September. She's hoping to replace some of the money she won't be able to earn through the park now, and she has some good musicians lined up.
August 11: WE'RE IN THE HOLE BUT GETTING OUT:
Fundraising goal of almost $7,000
From the August 2004 newsletter
On August 4, we had a budget shock - we found out that we've spent too much on staffing the park this summer. James Dann, the manager for Parks and Recreation in the west part of the city, told us the unhappy budget numbers, and the news travelled through the park and the neighbourhood and the farmers' market e-mail list: the park is broke. The more this park turns into a community-centre-without walls, the more ingenious we have to be to make it work without a community-centre budget. This year the ingenuity wasn't enough. What remedy?
First, we have to pass the hat. This is people's chance to give the park a donation. In the week since we found out the bad news, we've been getting a steady stream of checks and bills and so we've already been able to pay off some arrears. We still need to collect almost $7000 (the good news is, at first we thought we needed $17,000). That means there will be a few special events in the park to help raise the money, and all donations are appreciated. $25 is nice and so is $50. A few kind souls are giving even more. All donations can be handed to the park staff. Cheques should be made out the "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park." To mail: c/o 242 Havelock St. Toronto M6H 3B9.
Second, don't shoot the messenger. Parks and Recreation manager James Dann tells us he's had some irate phone calls asking him why he wants to ruin this really nice park. The fact is, James doesn't ruin the park, he helps out as much as he can. But he has no money to add into the budget - those decisions have to be made at another level.
Third, we have to make sure this passing the hat is a one-time event ONLY. That means, doing some politics before the next budget is set. We have to see if the Parks Department can recognize our park as a genuine community centre, cheaper to run than an indoor centre, but with just as many people using it, in all seasons except the mud months of March and November. As a comparison between our park and other places: the budget for staffing and operating the two nearest community recreation centres, Wallace-Emerson and McCormick, is around $1.2 million a year. Kew Gardens, in the Beaches, a showplace park twice the size of ours, which is also very heavily used and also has an outdoor rink, has a budget of somewhere around $450,000. We don't need that much. But we need more than the $80,000 assigned to us ($120,000 is plenty). Otherwise this experiment in making a community centre without walls will fade away again.
This fall is your chance, folks, to make the city aware of your views. If you want there to be community centres without walls like this park, call City Councillor Adam Giambrone at 416 392-7012 (e-mail: Councillor_Giambrone@toronto.ca). Or call the Mayor's office, or the city councillor in your area, if you live at a distance. At the same time, call acting Parks and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz at 416 392-8182 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also call our park's area manager, James Dann (who has often been helpful and supportive of what goes on here), at 416 392-1122 (e-mail email@example.com). To find out more about the nuts and bolts of how Dufferin Grove Park runs (and how we got in this trouble, and how people are helping), you can go to our park web site at www.dufferinpark.ca, or call the park at 416 392-0913.
Notified August 4, posted August 5 at the park
August 6: Friends of Dufferin Grove Park Sets Fundraising Goal
[Editor, August 11: The Goal was originally set to $17,500. Goal since revised downward to $7,000]
OUR PARK IS BROKE:
Due to some inattentive book-keeping by Jutta, our park has overrun its staffing budget. We're unhappily following the great tradition of surprise book-keeping: the provincial government found out last year that they were $5 billion in the hole; Parks and Recreation found out they were $8 million over budget last December; and we've joined the parade. We just realized that we've spent $10,000 more than we should have spent so far this year, and there's still a month of summer. Desperate measures are needed. The more this park has turned into a community-centre-without walls, the more ingenious we've had to be, to make it work without a community-centre budget. This year the ingenuity wasn't enough. What remedy?
1. In the short run:
We have to collect this overrun from the people who love this park. Here's your chance, folks, to give the park a donation. If 200 people give us $50 each, we'll get out of the hole. If 300 other people give us $25, we'll have enough money to run the park for the rest of the summer.
In the short run: What you can do
The way to let us know that you can help here is donate some money: call the park at 416 392-0913. Or come by the wading pool food cart. Or come to Friday night supper. Or come to the park bread cart at the Thursday Farmers' market, Or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or come by the pizza oven this Sunday or next Tuesday or Wednesday. Or mail us a cheque made out to "Friends of Dufferin Grove Park" c/o 242 Havelock Street Toronto, M6H 3B9. (And ask your friends too, if you like.)
2. In the long run:
We have to see if the Parks Department can recognize our park as a genuine community centre, cheaper to run than an indoor centre, but with just as many people using it, in all seasons except the mud months of March and November. The yearly allocation for staffing this park was $61,000 until recently but we just couldn't manage, and the city manager raised it to $80,000 for this year. (That doesn't count the wages of litter-pickers and grass-cutters, which are considerably higher than the wages of recreation workers.) As a comparison between our park and other places: the budget for staffing and operating the two nearest community recreation centres, Wallace-Emerson and McCormick, is around $1.2 million a year. Kew Gardens, in the Beaches, a showplace park twice the size of ours, which is also very heavily used and also has an outdoor rink, has a budget of somewhere around $450,000. We don't need that much. But we need more than a fifth of that. Otherwise this experiment in making a community centre without walls will fade away again.
Although the Parks and Recreation budget is around $150 million a year, all that money is already firmly allocated to existing arrangements. To fund our park enough that it can continue as a community centre, there will have to be a re-thinking of what a community centre is and why a fitness centre offering mainly registered programs is not equivalent. Then there will have to be some real political choices made on what portion of our tax money that goes into parks as opposed to buildings and registered programs.
In the long run: What you can do
This is your chance, folks, to make the city aware of your views. If you want there to be community centres without walls like this park, call City Councillor Adam Giambrone at 416 392-7012 (e-mail: Councillor_Giambrone@toronto.ca). Or call the Mayor's office, or the city councillor in your area, if you live at a distance. At the same time, call acting Parks and Recreation general manager Brenda Librecz at 416 392-8182 (e-mail email@example.com). You can also call our park's area manager, James Dann (who has been very helpful and who supports what goes on here), at 416 392-1122 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Aug 5 Original notice: Our Park is Broke
Announcement: OUR PARK IS BROKE (sign posted in park August 5, 2004)
Wading pool closed until further notice. Programs, most pizza days, clubs, cancelled.
The Farmer's Market is NOT cancelled.
Our park staff budget is all used up because:
- too many people come to the park and it has gradually turned into a community centre without the budget for that (compare: Dufferin Grove Park: $80,000 year-round; Kew Gardens, twice our size, $414,533; Wallace-Emerson and McCormick Community Recreation Centres together, $1.27 million)
- we hired more workers to staff the park-as-community-centre-without-walls
- the workers were not high school students
- we paid the workers twice the minimum wage because they had to do so many different things (but still less than the park litter staff)
- I couldn't do as much free work because of writing my book
- The summer's rainy weather reduced our food income, which would have helped pay for the workers
- We used too much of our pizza money to pay workers to fix broken picnic tables, paint benches, and weed gardens, for which there is no budget in the city
- People, including little kids and youth, talk to the recreation staff too much and that keeps the staff from just attending to their chores
- We have too many free permits and free picnic spaces
IF THIS TROUBLES YOU, COME TO FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER AUGUST 6, BETWEEN 6 p.m. TO 8 p.m., TO TALK ABOUT THIS PROBLEM.
Pay what you can (more is better).
If you can't come, give your ideas on our park web site discussion forum: community.dufferinpark.ca (find a forum called "The Park's Financial Troubles") or on the dufferingrovefriends list serve, or call the park at 416 392-0913 to leave a message, or e-mail us at email@example.com.