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Bristol recreation department pitches budget

BRISTOL — The head of the town recreation department presented a draft budget at the selectboard meeting on Jan. 6.
Recreation Director Darla Senecal proposed a budget of $176,899, a 10 percent increase from last year. Senecal explained to the selectboard that the increase was due to health care changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
“We tried to keep the department as level-funded as possible, and made cuts where we could,” Senecal said in an interview Tuesday. “We have a very slim budget to begin with.”
The budget provides funding for the recreation department, the Hub teen center, and the pottery studio. The budget covers the salaries of two full-time employees, one part-time employee, and a pottery studio instructor who is paid as an independent contractor.
The department’s expenditures for programming totaled $42,650 last year, roughly $5,000 more than had been budgeted. Unplanned expenses like film screenings on the town green contributed to the overrun. In that instance, the town did not anticipate having to pay a $2,000 licensing fee to screen a film.
Senecal said that unexpected costs occasionally come up, and that her department leaves some funds un-appropriated in anticipation of this.
“We can’t know everything that comes up, and we try to leave a cushion,” Senecal said.
Senecal said that in the coming year, class instructors are looking to be paid more. Currently, the department takes the lion’s share of the 60/40 split of class fees.
“We’re offering different structures, and they’re taking advantage of it,” Senecal said.
She added that instructors choose to be paid a percentage, a flat fee, or a per-student fee.
“We figure what’s best for them and the department,” Senecal said.
The recreation department hosts about 150 classes every year, depending on the season and the desires of community. The classes are taught by 40 to 50 teachers, who split the student fees with the town.
“We conduct surveys asking for input, and try to be as responsive to the community as possible,” Senecal said.
With the information available to her presently, Senecal said she expects the annual rent for the Hub teen center to remain at $7,200. She said her department is monitoring the town’s efforts to choose a site for a new firehouse. One of two locations currently being considered, and the only one recommended by the planning commission, is on the site of the teen center and skate park. If that site is eventually chosen by voters, both structures would have to be demolished and relocated.
In other business Monday evening, the selectboard:
•  Continued to discuss the budget for the coming year;
•  Heard testimony from Kristen Underwood about the proposed planting plans for the Saunders conservation project. Underwood proposed the town partner with UVM Extension and the Vermont River Conservancy at no cost to the town. The board approved Underwood’s recommendations.
•  Moved to rule on the proposed zoning amendment to the Bristol Pond District at the Jan. 20 meeting.
•  Discussed an incident in which a town plow truck struck a pedestrian vehicle as the vehicle attempted to pass the plow on Lower Notch Road. The board determined the plow was operating within state regulations of emergency vehicles.
•  Decided to convene future meetings at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. until April.

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