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Westport Parks & Rec Seeks More Money

UPDATED* AT 2 p.m.: Negative feedback from residents drove the Westport Parks and Recreation Department to enhance programming at Camp Campo and RECing Crew. This is part of the reason why Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy proposed a 2.24 percent budget increase for his department in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

"In the last two years, we've made substantial decreases to the services we were providing in those programs. We got poor feedback from both the staff and the customers, and so we have reinstated those programs," McCarthy told the Board of Finance on Tuesday night. "They are critical programs, and we need to keep the quality up both to be competitive as well to be satisfactory to our customers."

For the current fiscal year, the Parks and Recreation Department budget is $4.16 million. The proposed increase for next year would bring that amount up to $4.26 million.

Although an increase in programming was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission, McCarthy said these costs would be "more than covered" by an increase in program fees, which were also approved by the commission.

An increase in golf course operations is also reflected in the department's request for more money. McCarthy said the increase here is because of capital equipment replacement.

"We do have almost $800,000 worth of equipment, and we haven't made substantial replacements to our equipment in the last couple of years," he said. "I have two pieces of equipment that are critical to the operation of the golf course that must be replaced."

However, to offset these costs, McCarthy said the department was looking to boost golf course revenue. This means people should expect to see an increase in both pass and fee costs.

Although McCarthy is proposing an overall increase in spending, he said there are areas within the budget that would be cut, including athletic field maintenance. McCarthy said this may cause problems down the road.

Other departments that presented Tuesday night included human services, information technology, the Westport Public Library and Earthplace.

Barbara Butler, director of human services, proposed a budget of $963,989, a 0.3 percent increase over the current fiscal year's budget. Maxine Bleiweis, library director, and Eduardo Andrade, president of the library's Board of Trustees, requested a $4.2 million budget, which is 1.7 percent more than this current year.

Executive Director of Earthplace John Horkel requested $81,560, the same amount that has been given in each of the last five years. The Board of Finance will hear from several other departments Wednesday night.

What do you think of the budgets presented?

* This story was updated to reflect more of the meeting.

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