CENTER CITY - An energized and motivated crowd of activists and council members are calling on the Kenney Administration to properly fund Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Free Library of Philadelphia as a hot and humid summer draws near.
"We’re constantly being asked to do all of these different things, and our budget always seems to get smaller and smaller or stagnate, despite the fact that the needs of this community are ever growing. At Christy alone, we lost four kids last summer," said Quan Brown, a Christy Park employee. "I don’t mean lost like on a field trip, I mean they were gunned down."
16-year-old Kahree Simmons was one of those teens. Found by police with a fatal gunshot wound to his neck at Christy Park last March. Many people then wondered how could such brutality happen there.
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Councilmember-at-large Helen Gym says many rec centers are in desperate need of staffing. "They are not just staffed with one person, but they have a social worker there. They have support staff that are there. Right now we only open rec centers with one individual person that could go on all day," said Gym.
Gym says to make that reality, the city needs to more than double pre-pandemic budget levels.
"We would be looking at, probably, close to $8 to $10 million. Just for Parks and Rec," said Gym.
In a response from the mayor’s office, the Parks and Recreation proposed budget will be $68.1 million for Fiscal Year 2023, a $2.7 million increase over last year, and a little over $2 million pre-pandemic. But, having safe and open parks and recreation centers is only one slice of the safety pie. Gym is pounding the table for libraries to be open on the weekends.
In the same statement, the mayor's office says it'll increase the Fiscal Year 2023 budget by 23 percent to nearly $56 million, but admit it will only allow for Monday through Friday operation of all libraries.
"It’s not clear that that’s the case. We really want to encourage the mayor and the city to focus on the fact that we do not have enough things for young people to do on the weekends right now." Gym added.
The budget process ends on June 30th, after which budget amounts for all city departments will be finalized.