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Westport Parks & Rec Seeks $4.4M Budget

WESTPORT, Conn. – Although the Westport Parks and Recreation Department is seeking a 2.8 percent increase in spending for the 2012-13 fiscal year, the additional funding would just allow the department to continue operating as is, Director Stuart McCarthy told the Board of Finance on Tuesday night

That means residents shouldn’t expect to see more programs. In presenting the department’s proposed $4.4 million budget, McCarthy said the more than $121,000 increase is due, in part, to higher water and gas costs associated with the department’s maintenance and development.

“The water account is up by $30,000,” McCarthy said. “That’s water we purchase for all our facilities, including Longshore.”

In keeping the budget as flat as possible, McCarthy said the department eliminated two regular salaried positions, bringing the regular employee count to 23. Increased revenue in 2011 also helped offset costs.

Over the past five years, McCarthy said the department has consistently tightened its budget, doing more with less. This includes cutting staff from 31 to the current 23.

“Our 2008-09 budget expenditures were $7,000 more than I’m requesting in this budget,” he said. “If you look at the goals, which are to hold the budget, increase revenue and decrease the headcount, we have done that, I think, in spades”

Other than the $30,000 increase in water costs, other requested expenditures include $4,000 for five new computers, $10,000 to replace a 15-year-old leaf blower and several other equipment replacements.

In contrast to the proposed increase in Parks and Recreation spending, the Department of Human Services presented a slightly reduced spending plan.

Director Barbara Butler presented the department’s $984,000 budget, which is 0.4 percent less than the current year. The department, she said, cut its costs by reducing the amount allotted for public assistance in its social services division.

“In trying to turn in a flat budget as directed, we reduced the public assistance line because we’ve been very successful this year with contributions and so we felt we can manage with what we have,” butler said.

Helen Garten, vice chairman of the finance board, applauded the department’s efforts to cut costs. At the same time, she encouraged Butler to “come back to us” if the department runs into any trouble next year.

This was the second round of hearings on the town’s overall proposed $188.5 million budget for next year.

The Board of Finance will hear the proposed budgets for the Westport Weston Health District, the transit district, and pensions and insurance Wednesday night. No votes will be taken.

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