City asks district: Can we lower rent?

Daily Pilot

Costa Mesa officials want to continue operating the Balearic Community Center into next year, but they probably could not afford the lease with the city's projected budget deficit.

The city is talking with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which owns Balearic, in hopes of reducing or waiving next year's $71,000 lease. The community center is home to many programs and services including the early childhood program, the day camp program and contract classes, such as karate and yoga, among others.

"We recognize that it's a difficult time for all public agencies, and we're hoping the budgets of the school district and the city turn around; but in the meantime, I think it's appropriate for us to help where we can," Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard said. "We have a positive relationship, and we wanted to offer it as an acknowledgment of both the good relationship we have as well as the fiscal reality."

Costa Mesa, facing a projected $16.4-million budget deficit next year, is proposing to eliminate many services and lay off 77 of its employees. Closing Balearic is one cost-saving proposal.

Except for the Summer Playgrounds Program, all services offered at the community center are cost-effective, said Jana Ransom, recreation manager.

If the district waives next year's lease, Balearic could stay open.

"What we're hoping to do, if we can get the fee reduced or even waived next year, we're hoping to put just programs that offset the cost of operating the building," Ransom said.

Along with planning on offering only cost-effective classes next year, the city is working on reducing the cost of the utilities and the maintenance of the building to about $20,000, Ransom said.

That amount would be offset by the money Costa Mesa makes from renting out Balearic for parties and events, Ransom said.

One church group regularly rents the center on a regular basis, she said.

The city expects to make about $19,000 next year from the rental of the building, Ransom said.

Although waiving the fee for the city would take away from the district's budget, Hubbard said, it's worth maintaining the long-standing relationship with Costa Mesa.

The city has been leasing Balearic from the district for 30 years.

"It's two issues: We know that field space is something the city is in need of and we didn't want to preclude the city from using it in the future if their needs for field space continue," Hubbard said. "The second is if we were to take it back, we then have to go through the process of taking time to find a new tenant, establish fair rates and it's not always easy to find quality tenants. The city has been an excellent tenant."

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