By DANIEL V. RODRIGUEZ
Special to the NEWS
The Boys and Girls Club of San Benito convened with city officials Friday evening to address some of the club’s financial matters.
Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors President Tommy Ramirez, Jr. and Chief Professional Officer Mario Cervantes along with volunteer financial consultant Lolita Cervantes met with San Benito City Manager Manual Lara, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Jaramillo, City Attorney Ricardo Morado and City Commissioners Joe D. Gonzalez and Rene Villafranco with the objective of maintaining the Boys and Girls Club’s operations in the city. Citing reduced funding from sources such as United Way and Community Development Block Grant funds, monies allocated by the City of San Benito, Ramirez recently announced that the club would close in three months’ time, when emergency funds expire, without outside assistance.
Morado commenced the meeting by stressing that the city is limited in its capacity to offer the Boys and Girls Club aid.
According to Morado, and although acknowledging the club’s impact on the community and the urgency of its predicament, current state laws make it difficult to provide such aid. “There are serious limitations as to what the city can do directly,” Morado said. “The Texas constitution prohibits the city from making any gifts or donations to any entity, no matter how worthy or worthwhile their purpose.”
While the city cannot make direct donations, they are pooling resources to ask for sponsorships and partners. Lara said that he currently has people writing letters to solicit help from the business community, both on the local level and otherwise.
Ramirez, meanwhile, said the club’s finances have been stretched thin and hopes for expedited resolve. “We’ve laid everybody off, and [Mario Cervantes] is my only employee,” Ramirez said “We’re very frugal. Some toilets a while ago started malfunctioning, so we called a plumber to get some instructions on how to get them to work, and we got it done ourselves.”
Commissioner Gonzalez inquired as to what involvement, if any, has the Boys and Girls Club of America organization had in aiding the San Benito chapter. Ramirez said, “Of the millions and millions of dollars they are getting from the feds, from the NFL, from major league baseball, they [awarded] us $6000. And then they sent us an invoice saying we owe them $3000 for existing as a club.”
Another issue discussed was the club’s membership fees. Commissioner Villafranco mentioned that in a survey, the Boys and Girls Club of San Benito has one of the lowest annual membership costs of the Rio Grande Valley, suggesting a rate increment for club patrons.
On the one hand, Ramirez is reluctant to increase membership fees. “Times are hard,” he said, “and as soon as you do that, kids won’t come.” But on the other hand, the continuation of the Boys and Girls Club of San Benito may be at stake, and for that reason Ramirez said he is willing to consider an annual rate increase broken into two payments: “It’s kind of like a payment plan,” Ramirez said, where parents will not have to pay a large sum all at once.
Considering the worst-case scenario, Ramirez asked if city officials would consider creating a youth center should the club close its doors.
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