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Committee weighs where to spend and save

October 28, 2009
The Budget Committee has tentatively approved the library and Parks and Recreation Department budgets, both of which include increases in the neighborhood of 6 percent.

Although the Parks and Recreation budget is up 6.52 percent and is $15,000 more than last year's budget, Director of Parks and Recreation Herb Greene worked with the committee on the budget and assured them that about $8,000 of the increase would go to the capital reserve fund. Seasonal wages are also up because one more life guard was hired to "prevent mishaps" and take care of liability issues.

Greene said he followed this recommendation for summer programs so that in case another swimming instructor has to be somewhere else in the facility, there will always be someone on duty.

Committee member Doug Lambert sat on the sub-committee in preparation for the committee meeting last Thursday and informed the board that recreation wages will cost an additional $2,800, even though wages are down by half a percent.

Although there has been no recent or direct expense for general programs, Greene said that some money has been placed in the "revolving fund" for activities such as Senior Momentum.

Committee member Skip Murphy described this fund as "self-sustaining" and said that no town money has been placed in the fund since it was established.

Greene said that the Recreation Department is also in great need of a raft with a top deck and an understructure around the swim area, which would cost $3,000 since the old raft is worn out and insufficient. The Recreation Department also has a playground structure for 5 to 12-year-olds in the making, and has proposed building a new fence at the beach for violation reasons.

"We had a problem with people jumping over the fence at the beach (which was four to five feet tall). It is now going to be about a six-foot fence to avoid non-taxpayers from sneaking in," said Greene.

He added that the fence has suffered damage from snowplowing in the winter as well.

The committee noted that fuel, vehicle maintenance, dental benefits, seasonal wages, and the additional raft structure took up the majority of the budget. The recreation department requested a new car last budget season but was denied; they now drive an older police cruiser donated by the police department.

Professional development was another area of discussion, since most recreation directors are expected to be "certified" now, meaning Greene may have to further his education from time to time on behalf of the town.

Murphy argued that applying for more certifications is not a state mandate, but Lambert argued that professional learning is still an important factor for Greene's job.

"Herb feels it gives a lot of value to what he brings to the Parks and Recreation Department," said Lambert.

Greene explained to the committee that workshops usually consist of conferences that focus on specific training such as legislative issues, legal, maintenance, and personal issues, which could benefit the department and the town.

Greene said the department is also currently setting aside money for tennis court reconstruction. Committee members wanted to know why money needed to be set aside and Greene explained that he didn't want to bombard the town all at once with a project that turned out to be larger than he first anticipated, including the new raft.

"These are just the initial numbers quoted that Sheldon (from Public Works) got. He is working to see if he can get better quotes," said Greene.

As of right now, the Parks and Recreation Department budget stands at about $257,742.

Meanwhile, the library budget is up 5.8 percent at a $7,200 increase from last year. At least $14,000 of that can be contributed to the additional healthcare benefits extended to part-time employees, explained Library Director Katherine Dormody. The committee said that some increases on the whole seemed higher than in other department budgets.

Town Manager Scott Dunn explained that the library was "above the curve" with merit wages last year in their budget, while other towns were below, and now the library is playing "catch up."

"It is all about where the actual wages are compared to where we thought they would be. The library was a little bit of an anomaly in that regard," said Dunn.

Lambert added that the merit wage line has gone down, and that three part-time library employees increased the budget by 2.9 percent with an additional $1,300.

Although there were some increases, Lambert admitted that he had been skeptical of the library in the first place before he sat down with Dormody at the sub-budget committee. He first assumes that loads of the taxpayer's money was being shoveled into new youngster programs, but he learned that a lot was already funded by clubs such as Meredith Altrusa, or just low in cost.

"The baby programs line is not very big. It's only $1,700 so we certainly can't be funding everything we are reading about. When librarians are on duty, they might as well be conducting classes anyway," said Lambert, who finds this will avoid the need to hire more employees.

Dormody said the library strives to keep up with the latest trends in the field by providing their visitors with updated technology and by increasing their own knowledge with higher education classes in subjects such as library science.

The library is also in need of a new, main computer at $850 although some members argued that similar models run for $200 less.

Although though the committee wants to find a computer that fits all the library's needs for a better price and examine both budgets a little more, they have approved both the recreation budget and the $403,856 library budget for now.

Tilton School
Martin Lord Osman
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