JCC is taking several steps to alleviate fiscal crisis

Other attempts to put the center back on track this fall include postponing a decision on whether to reopen the fitness center and pool, planning for $150,000 in staff reductions by early next year, and raising $113,000 in donations from board members and a private foundation.

"We've made a lot of progress over the last few months," the JCC's Gale Mondry said.

Last month, Mondry became JCC board president. She replaced Larry Myers, who stepped down because of health problems.

The difficulties that led to the board's recent actions reach back more than a year when the JCC's monthly losses began escalating as a result of declining memberships, decreasing charitable contributions and a deteriorating building. When the JCC's financial problems became public in February, the deficit was expected to reach $500,000 by summer. Mondry now estimates it at $1.6 million.

The deficit resulted in layoffs last spring, as well as reduced operating hours and programming. Despite efforts of JCC members to raise money to keep the fitness center and pool open, these health facilities were closed at the end of May and memberships were eliminated.

Of all the JCC's financial maneuvers since summer, the planned sale of its property at 655 Brotherhood Way to the adjacent day school will have the most substantial effect on reducing its debt.

The sale does not include the JCC's main site at 3200 California St.

Brandeis Hillel will pay $1.8 million for the 1.91 acres and one building. With a tentative agreement already in place, the sale is expected to become final early next year.

The deal includes $1.2 million in cash up front, Mondry said, as well as a promise that the day school will lease several rooms to the JCC. The lease will allow the JCC to continue running its child-care program at Brotherhood Way, which currently serves 74 children ages 2 to 4.

The initial payment to the JCC, minus closing costs, will be used to reduce the center's $1.6 million deficit, Mondry said.

Despite the pending deal, the JCC board continues to delay a decision on the fate of the fitness center and pool.

In the fall, a consultant's study recommended "substantial renovation" before reopening the fitness center and pool. So far, the board of directors hasn't decided whether to take the plunge.

Between renovating the building, buying new equipment, hiring new staff and advertising, Mondry said, the pricetag to reopen could reach $1 million.

"We don't have that money right now," she said.

The uncertainty surrounding the building's future adds to the desire to postpone a decision. For years, JCC officials have talked about razing the current center at 3200 California St. and rebuilding at the site. Though such plans are now on the back burner, Mondry said that the board may reconsider this option in mid-1996.

However, a group of former JCC members contests the view that the center should be torn down or even that the health facilities must undergo major renovations before reopening.

Irving Zaretsky, head of Friends of the JCC, said his group presented a proposal to officials last week that would allow the fitness center and pool to reopen for just a few thousand dollars.

The proposal includes a major cleanup but no renovations, a fitness center run by a mix of staff and volunteers, and a system to ensure that users cannot illegally duplicate cards.

"This is the plan that is the most feasible," Zaretsky said.

Mondry said the board will consider all possibilities, but added that she doesn't believe reopening the fitness areas without major renovations would be financially responsible.

"We don't really want to open a center that doesn't meet community standards," she said. "It wasn't attractive enough [before] to attract the members we needed."

Meanwhile, the JCC board has made other decisions to try to improve the center's financial footing.

This fall, Mondry said, the board approved a plan to save $150,000 by early 1996 through staff reductions. According to JCC officials and staff, the reductions have come so far through attrition and the layoffs of a child-care administrator and a summer-camp director.

Jackie Lewis, director of the JCC's youth and family programs and president of the center's chapter of the Service Employees International Union Local 535, said she believes center officials should focus on reducing the high-paid management staff if they really want to save money.

"If you lay off a $20,000-a-year employee, that doesn't help much," she said.

In addition to reducing staff, the center has tried to fill its coffers through fund-raising. So far, Mondry said, these efforts have brought in $63,000 from board members and $50,000 from a private foundation, which she wouldn't name.

Though tapped as board president last summer partly because of his reputation as a fund-raising powerhouse, Myers said his decision to step down won't affect efforts to attract donations. He will continue serving on the board and on fund-raising efforts.

Myers, who suffered health problems throughout the fall, said he is fine now. "I just can't spend all of the time that's required of the job at the present time," he said, adding that his successor is "very able."

Mondry, a 45-year-old San Francisco attorney, has served on the JCC board for seven years and as vice president for the past three years. She will serve out Myers' yearlong term, which began in August.

Meanwhile, other short-terms plans include starting the year with a balanced operating-budget, reinstituting some form of membership in early 1996, and restoring some adult classes next year.

Although the JCC has suspended most of its adult programs, officials said that activities for children, emigres and seniors have continued and expanded in some cases.

Fall soccer league attracted 320 boys and girls; English classes enrolled about 375 emigres; and Montefiore Senior Center's 600 members continued to take part in classes and activities.

Zev Hymowitz, who became the center's executive director in the summer, said he's proud of the work accomplished so far.

"I think we've come a long way. First of all, we're still here. And secondly, we've done very well considering what we were up against," he said. "But I don't think the job is over by any stretch of the imagination."