FinCom Reviews Planning, Health Budgets and Hears Recreation Commission Concerns about Springs Brook Park

By Lizzie Seibert

At its meeting on January 12, the Bedford Finance Committee met with the Board of Health, the Planning Board and the Recreation Commission to discuss their budgets for next year.

Recreation Director Amy Hamilton and Recreation Commission Chair Ronald Richter discussed financing concerns about Springs Brook Park. Amy Hamilton acknowledged that in their upcoming meeting on January 17, the Recreation Commission may consider voting to close Springs Brook Park (SBP). She and Richter noted that SBP’s funding comes from the Recreation Department’s revolving fund, which is mainly composed of revenue from Spring Brook Park, Summer Adventures, Kid’s Club, and smaller Recreation programs. Some programs subsidize others within the Recreation budget.  As of now, the revolving fund has a deficit of approximately $28,000.

Hamilton raised the point that last year, SBP lost the department $270,000, and this loss is unsustainable. She noted that the recreation commission has been reviewing several potential models for opening the park this year, but ultimately did not know how the park could open without jeopardizing the department and its other programs. Currently, the Kid’s Club program is funding both SBP and Summer Adventures, which are both losing money.

The Finance Committee wondered if SBP could be funded by town taxes rather than the revolving fund, to which Hamilton and Richter responded that it would not ultimately solve the problem of SBP’s unsustainable losses. They also expressed frustrations regarding discussions with the Finance Committee in prior years, where the Finance Committee asked them to fund their programs with the revolving fund rather than through the tax levy. Both the Finance Committee and Recreation Department representatives wondered whether Bedford’s 4,000 households should pay for the park, which only about 150 households use.

Hamilton also acknowledged that now is the time to hire seasonal staff for SBP, and Recreation would need to reach a budget solution almost immediately. The Finance Committee responded that it could not guarantee funds to the Recreation Department without a written plan, and could not be sure if there would be enough extra cash in any of the town’s budgets to fund SBP or sustain the Recreation Department.

Hamilton noted that the Recreation Commission will likely vote this Tuesday on how to proceed with SBP.

Board of Health Director Heidi Porter presented a budget request for $280,562, which is $1,282 over the Finance Committee’s guideline. This request is driven by salary increases. The Board of Health also plans to open additional health clinics and flu clinics in the Bedford Schools for next year, but this expense will be paid from its revolving fund. Overall, the Board has maintained its services and inspections of town businesses and facilities through its budget and state grants.

Tony Fields, Bedford’s Planning Department Director, also presented a budget request for next year that was within the 2.5 budget guideline for FY 2018. The bulk of the budget request was for salary increases and training costs for new board members.

Next week, the Finance Committee will continue to hear budget proposals from town departments.

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