City council undecided on boosting funds for parks & rec

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(Posted April 10, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The London parks and recreation department needs more money, according to a recommendation from the city’s finance committee. The department is requesting an additional $12,500 for personnel and $22,500 for operations.

The request for more money is partly to make up for costs related to the winter basketball program, which straddled two budget years, running from late 2013 into early 2014. When the 2014 budget was set in late 2013, the basketball program was not in full swing. The program ended up attracting nearly double the number of participants as the year before. The budgeting process had not accounted for the increased expenses of putting on the expanded program, said safety-service director Steve Hume.

Originally, council set aside $165,000 for the parks and recreation department for 2014. The requested increases for personnel and operations would take that number to $200,000. Councilman Steve Scaggs said he worries the city won’t be able to sustain a $200,000 budget moving forward into future years.

“Ben (McCoy) is doing a good job, but it’s got to balance out,” Scaggs said.

McCoy noted that participation in recreation programs is up considerably over previous years, which means the department’s revenues are up, too. Contributing to those revenues are participation fees and concession sales. McCoy projects the trend to continue.

Council president Pat Closser expressed concern about giving more money to some city departments and not to others. A department’s ability to raise revenues should not be a deciding factor, he said, because not all departments have the ways to raise their own funds. He cited the police department as an example.

Councilman Rodney Lauer said the funding request would help the parks and recreation department continue to offer better services to the community. With better services comes more participation, and with more participation comes more revenues, he said. The city would get more bang for the buck when it comes to subsidizing the department, he continued.

City auditor Katie Hensel said the city is trending toward deficit spending with or without the requested increase for the parks and recreation department.

The funding request will be back up for council’s consideration at the next council meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 17.

Upcoming committee meetings

Council’s safety-service committee will meet at 7 p.m. April 14 at the police department on East First Street. The finance committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers on East Second Street. The community center committee will meet at 6 p.m. April 24 at the center on Walnut Street.

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