The Recreation Committee voted to trim $20,000 out of the budget Wednesday, and some aldermen said arguments over that department’s bottom line would continue when the full board reviews the budget next week.
The meeting was the final committee-level review of Mayor Christopher Louras’s $18.3 million budget proposal. The Board of Aldermen meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to sift through the cuts recommended in committee as well as set the water and sewer rates.
Recreation Supervisor EJay Bishop said he had originally put in for $40,000, based on the $45,000 it cost to buy equipment for Meadow Street 10 years ago, but that the mayor had reduced it to $30,000, saying that the city should take the remainder from a special fund for improvements at White’s. The fund has roughly $22,000, he said.
Since that change was made, Bishop learned that a local foundation had offered to match the $30,000 if the city approved it.
Recreation director Cindi Wight said the city did not have any playgrounds that were fully wheelchair accessible and that this line item along with the foundation money would be enough to build one.
"I know that may be seen by some as too much, but to me that’s a chance for every child to play," she said.
Alderman Sharon Davis said that it was hard to argue against the position Wight had just laid out, she felt the city at least needed to dip deeper into the existing fund given the state of the economy.
"It’s not that the city is unwilling, but this is a bad year," she said. "Something has to give."
Robinson made the motion to reduce the line item to $10,000, a proposal quickly endorsed by Sargeant, who said that if the city took $10,000 each from the taxpayers and the fund and got the foundation to match that $20,000, it would add up to the $40,000 Bishop originally wanted.
"It sounds like this foundation was trying to reward the city for investing in itself," Wallstrom said. "It would be kind of silly to turn that down."
Board President David Allaire said he hoped the city and foundation could discuss the issue before Thursday’s meeting.
The other sticking point of the evening was the maintenance budget, which included $45,000 intended both for unspecified improvements when the city takes over the Courcelle Brothers building from the Army Reserve as well as continued renovations at Rotary Park.
While Larson said he would reserve his comments on that section of the budget until Thursday, a motion to approve it as-written failed 2-2. DePoy and Sargeant voted yes while Larson and Robinson dissented. Wallstrom had left the meeting by that point. That section will go to the board with no recommendation from the committee.
By Gordon Dritschilo / Staff Writer