Joint Operating Agreement FAQs
Since the 1950’s, Vancouver’s community centres have been run by volunteer community centre associations, working in partnership with the Vancouver Park Board. The last formal partnership agreement was signed in 1979. For the past 15 years, the Park Board and the associations have been meeting intermittently to develop a new agreement that meets the needs of the Park Board and the associations (each association serves a unique Vancouver community).
The most recent contract development process began in May 2016 and it produced a proposed Joint Operating Agreement approved by the elected Park Board Commissioners in April of this year. It is this proposed contract that we are bringing to our community for comment.
Q: Why is the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society concerned about the proposed draft of the Park Board contract?
A: The Joint Operating Agreement being presented to us by the Park Board for our signature has several serious challenges that will affect how our community centre operates. (You can find the 50+ page document at: http://www.kerrisdalecc.com/category/negotiations/).
If we sign this document, the Park Board will have stronger control in important areas of how we run Kerrisdale’s community centre.
With this agreement:
- The Park Board can replace Kerrisdale Community Centre programs with those it deems important, infringing on our ability to program specifically for our unique community.
- The Park Board will have considerable control in areas of Society business – policies, spending and Board
- There is a ten-year term on the contract. This is a short time frame in contracts of this magnitude. Along with choosing not to renew the agreement in ten years, there are provisions in the agreement that would allow the Park Board to terminate our agreement at any time prior to the end of the contract.
- The Park Board requires that we relinquish our court case (which asks for, among other things, confirmation of the Society’s right to use the facility or receive financial compensation).
- We will have to pay the Park Board an Operating Fee of 2% of the gross revenue each year (approximately $45,400 in FY2019/20 and each year following).
- The Park Board refuses to include any commitment to support the programming and services in community centres.
- The Kerrisdale Community Centre Society will no longer be able to provide free recreational opportunities such as mahjong, snooker and pool tables for members. For many in our community, these services offer a valuable and much needed chance to socialize and connect with others and to be a part of a community.
- The contract they want us to sign would likely mean the termination of our senior’s lunch, a very popular and important service for many in our community. It would be cancelled because we would no longer qualify for the licensing necessary for the kitchen to operate. This key program provides a low-cost lunch for seniors, along with an increasingly important opportunity for our seniors to socialize and connect. We raised the importance of this issue multiple times throughout the process, but the Park Board refused to discuss the value of this program to our community.
- We provide an estimated 30,000 subsidized meals each year to our community. We could no longer provide this important and much needed service under the proposed new contract.
- We have no ability to influence, guide, change, or refuse any changes to the Centre’s facilities.
- At any time, for any or no reason, the Park Board can choose to audit us and we are responsible for costs associated with that audit.
- Should the Park Board violate any aspect of this agreement, our only recourse is to launch an arbitration process, which is costly and time-consuming. If we violate, the Park Board can terminate our agreement.
- This agreement focuses on taking decision making and control away from the community and giving it to the Park Board; it does not focus on how the Park Board can provide support and increase services to our community.
- The tone and language of the agreement is not supportive and empowering for our community centre; it is punitive and controlling in nature.
- We can no longer charge membership fees (a loss of approximately $105,000 annually)
Q: Kerrisdale Community Centre has an outstanding financial disagreement with the Park Board – how is that being dealt with in the context of the proposed contract?
A: There are two costly and complex financial issues that need to be resolved before we can sign this agreement, if that is what we choose to do.
According to the Park Board, for 2012 to 2016, we must pay them $825,000 before we can sign this proposed contract. The additional amount for 2017 and each year going forward is estimated at $125,000.
For the first issue, in 2010, the Park Board came to Kerrisdale Community Centre Society and – due to a financial shortfall/budget cut on their side – asked us to pay a portion of the costs for some staff positions. In addition, they asked us for a cash grant. We complied with this request and, at that time, signed a one-year-contract for that year only.
The next year (2011), we agreed, again at the request of the Park Board, to pay the portion of the costs of some staff positions for one year, but did not include a cash grant.
The Park Board believes that we owe them for the years 2012 – onwards.
We have legal advice and substantial documentation that supports our position that there was no agreement or contract in place after 2011 and that we owe nothing to the Park Board for these positions.
For the second issue, in 2011, without the agreement or consent of Kerrisdale Community Centre Society, the Park Board converted several auxiliary staff shifts to three regular part-time positions. We have refused to pay the Park Board the additional expense for these positions from the beginning. Now, the Park Board is billing us for it. We have obtained legal advice and feel justified in our position that we do not owe the Park Board any money in relation to this issue.
Q: You have been pushing back on the Park Board for a long period of time. What achievements have been made with this agreement?
A: As most of our community knows, we have spent a long time working on getting an agreement with the Park Board that works for our community, as well as for them. Especially over the past year, we have spent days and days, many evenings and weekends (thousands of hours) attending meetings with the Park Board, working with other CCAs, reviewing drafts of the document, providing our written feedback – which was ignored if it did not fit with the Park Board’s goals (which were not transparently communicated with us).
Some of the achievements and progress we have experienced are:
- The ability to take all disputes to arbitration (previously some had to go to the General Manager of the Park Board and/or Commissioners);
- Removal of the Park Board’s demand to spend all retained earnings in five years;
- The operating fee, which was 2% beginning immediately and increasing to 5% or higher thereafter, is reduced to 0% in year 1; 1% in year 2 and has a cap of 2% for the duration of the agreement;
- The contract term has been increased from five years to ten years;
- The removal of demands that would have put community centre associations in conflict with provisions of the Income Tax Act and the Societies Act;
- The agreement has become less restrictive on the association’s use of space in community centre facilities;
- The proposed contract now provides fairer conditions for use of its One Card by community centre associations;
- The agreement now allows for association approval for staff positions and costs before they are charged to the association; and
- Some of the clauses that interfered with the internal operations of the association have been removed.
These were important revisions to the contract. However, there are other changes that need to happen. The changes we want done are in the best interest of our community.
Q: What are the financial ramifications of signing this contract?
A: The Park Board’s proposed agreement will increase the costs to our association by roughly $300,000 each year. Included in these additional costs are:
- A new Park Board fee set at 2% of our gross revenue annually – $45,000 from Fiscal Year 2019/20 onward;
- Program registration processing fees (1% of every transaction) – totalling approximately $22,000 and;
- Approximately $125,000 in increased staffing costs.
- In addition, we will no longer be able to charge membership fees, a loss of revenue of $105,000 annually.
These are funds that we rely on for programming and services at our community centre.
Q: This has been going on for a long time; why is it so hard to get a contract that works for our community centre?
A: That is a good question. We have asked ourselves that quite a bit over the last five years of this challenging process.
We can’t speak for the Park Board, but what we can tell you is that, with your support, we have spent the past five years fighting to make sure that the Joint Operating Agreement (contract with Park Board) works for our unique community, as well as for the Park Board.
We feel strongly that governance and management of our community centre belongs to the community. It’s called a community centre and not a Park Board centre for a reason.
Q: Is this issue because the Park Board has a lack of respect for how community centres are run?
A: We can’t speak for the Park Board.
For our part, as Kerrisdale Community Centre Society, since we were founded in 1943, we have managed and run a very successful community centre. We are proud of the work we have done. We have done it as a community – and as a community organization. For almost 75 years, we have looked to the people of this community when it comes to making decisions about the future of the community centre.
We have a huge amount of respect and admiration for our volunteers – from those who work on the front lines in the centre to those who take on leadership roles in the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society and who serve on the Board. These are committed individuals who give up time with their families and friends and who take time out of their busy lives to contribute to our community centre and our community.
We make a huge difference in the lives of every person who walks through our doors. From exercise classes to our lunch programs and everything in between, they happen because we have a strong, caring, involved community – and because our volunteers are the best. In fact, our community centre has been recognized for its excellence. According to the Vancouver Courier Readers’ Choice Awards, Kerrisdale is “Vancouver’s Best Community Centre for 2017.”
Kerrisdale Community Centre and all community centres in the city deserve respect for the work that we do, for our volunteers and our volunteer boards and committees.
Q: If you sign this Park Board contract – what happens to the lawsuit against the Park Board that Kerrisdale is involved in?
A: Before we can sign this contract (and that has not been decided – we need your input on that), the Park Board requires that we relinquish our court case (which asks for, among other things, confirmation of the Society’s right to use the facility or receive financial compensation).
Q: What happens if Kerrisdale doesn’t sign this contract?
A: If we do not sign the contract, we would need to decide whether we will move forward with the lawsuit. If we do that, our expectation is that it would take two or three years, but that ultimately, we could face the possibility of eviction by the Park Board.
Q: Can the Park Board really evict us if we don’t sign the agreement?
A: If we don’t sign, we will need to decide whether to move forward with the lawsuit. If we do move forward, the Park Board cannot evict us while the legal action is underway. However, once the legal action is finished, there is the possibility that they will evict us.
The Park Board has told us that if we don’t sign the agreement, they will evict us.
Q: Are the other Community Centre Associations (CCAs) signing this contract?
A: While we don’t speak for the other CCAs, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of writing these FAQs, two Community Centre Associations out of 20 have signed the agreement.
The other CCAs have not yet stated their decision on what they will do.
Q: What happens if some CCAs sign and some don’t?
A: That is a question for the Park Board.
We are a part of the group of 14 CCAs that have spent the last year working together to address what we feel are serious issues with this agreement. We can’t tell you what other CCAs will do. It is our understanding that, at this point, many of them have not come to a decision about this agreement and whether to sign.
Some CCAs may decide to sign and some may not. Right now, we are focused on engaging our community and asking for your input on whether the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society should sign this agreement.
Q: What happens next?
A: We are in a tough spot with this contract. The Park Board wants us to sign the agreement by September 30, 2017. Right now, we have several options:
- For the next few months, we can focus on communicating what we need to have in this agreement to the Park Board – showcasing how this would be a “win” for all and working towards having them agree to our changes;
- We can refuse to sign it and move forward with the lawsuit – which would take several years, a great deal of money, and would likely end in the Park Board terminating our agreement; or
- We can agree to sign an agreement that is not good for our community – and hope for the best.
Once we have clear direction from our community, we will know what our next steps should be.
In the meantime:
- We are in the process of getting a second legal opinion, which for something as serious as this contract, is a part of us doing our due diligence.
- We will hold a Special General Meeting of Members in September, when we will be asking our members to formally vote on whether to accept the Park Board’s contract or not.
Q: What does the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society Board of Directors think that we should do?
A: We think that over the next three months we should communicate the changes we want to the Park Board. We feel strongly that it is important to do whatever we can to have the changes that we have proposed included in the agreement so that it is a foundation for a good working relationship between our community centre and the Park Board.
We need to carefully review the opinion our lawyer gives us. We have come so far, but the agreement isn’t there yet. We believe we would be letting our community down if we did not continue to push back on the Park Board while we have this opportunity.
However, as has happened since we founded the society more than seven decades ago, we listen to our community – and your input will direct our next steps.
Please visit our website regularly: http://www.kerrisdalecc.com/negotiations-with-park-board/. We will share news, updates and other information regarding this issue with you there.
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