By Lizzie Seibert
The Recreation Department’s recommended budget received significant discussion, but was ultimately approved for the fiscal year 2018 at $1,722,863. This budget includes continuing Springs Brook Park, the teen center, and adding a program coordinator, which had each been previously scrutinized as losses for the department. In approving this budget, Finance Committee member Ben Thomas noted that he was “Willing to say yes (to the budget) one time, for this year only. If we don’t have a plan for this next year I will say now that I won’t vote for it.”
This sparked a debate among the Finance Committee, Recreation Director Amy Hamilton, and Town Manager Richard Reed, who were present in the audience. The Finance Committee wondered if they could impose a timeline on the recreation department to receive a long-term plan for their budgeting. Department Chair Stephen Steele noted that “we are not looking for a plan to make or lose money… we want to know what you are thinking.” While committee member David Powell asked for specific clarification on recreation’s revolving fund.
Amy Hamilton expressed that the Recreation Department had already presented this information to the Finance Committee (see The Citizen’s article “ FinCom Reviews Planning, Health Budgets, and Hears Recreation Commission Concerns about Springs Brook Park”) and reiterated her point that has been up for debate these past few weeks: the youth center and Springs Brook Park (both paid for by Recreation’s revolving fund and not from Bedford’s tax levy) will never break even.
Stephen Steele and the rest of the committee then retracted their earlier statements and asked for the Recreation Department for “a plan to show how the revolving fund can break even.”
After approving the Recreation Department’s budget despite its concerns, the Finance Committee approved a town merit pool for $195,000. The committee also voted to put $500,000 into the town stabilization fund, despite town Treasurer Victor Garofalo’s recommendation to put in $750,000 at a minimum. The stabilization fund is Bedford’s free cash reserve that can be used for unexpected financial burdens. The majority of the Finance Committee disagreed with Garofalo’s recommendation for unstated reasons.
The Finance Committee’s budget plan ultimately will have to be approved by Bedford residents at town meeting. A full breakdown of the of the FY18 budget, in addition to other town meeting agenda items, will be mailed to Bedford Residents in the upcoming weeks.