Adult recreation programs to move to West Glocester Elementary in light of expected budget cuts

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Supt. Renee Palazzo speaks before the Town Council

GLOCESTER – Adult recreation basketball and volleyball will be moving to West Glocester Elementary School to avoid paying Foster-Glocester Regional Schools $3,000 for use of the facilities there from November to April in effort to reduce costs for the upcoming year.

At a recent budget hearing, Glocester Recreation Director Robert Shields told the council that plans are underway to move the site in order to avoid additional expenses and reduce his department’s budget.

“My game plan was to go ahead and use some other facilities in order to avoid that particular line item,” Shields told the council.

Shields said he plans to talk to Department of Public Works director Gary Treml about installing some volleyball nets at West Glocester in order to meet the needs of residents who participate in adult recreation volleyball, as well as basketball.

As far as the Recreation Department’s budget was concerned, Shields also offered to eliminate what would have been a 4 percent raise for himself, and use that money to help fund the recreation department’s needs.

“I’d love to go ahead and sacrifice the 4 percent I was receiving,” he said. “It’s a nominal amount, something that’s not going to break my pocket. But what is really going to hurt is not necessarily having those funds to buy recreational material.”

He warned that some programs will likely have to be cut, especially those which run during the school year.

Last year’s recreation budget was cut $5,000, and this year’s proposal would see it cut by another $7,000. The proposed overall department budget for the upcoming year is $125,346, which includes the funding for everything from special events, like parades and road races, to programs, such as tennis and swimming – which requires lifeguards.

Shields explained that his request for equipment and recreational materials were cut from the proposal.

“I completely understood that coming into this year it was going to be a very difficult budget cycle,” said Shields. “I tried providing a budget that fit those needs.”

As part of that process, Shields said he plans on moving the adult recreation programs to West Glocester to help save costs.

“I think the best way to go ahead and move forward with this, is to try and be a little more independent in utilizing those facilities,” he said.

Councilor Walter Steere questioned once again why the district wouldn’t waive the fee, as he and others have since the change was first brought to the board’s attention last fall.

“It’s too bad, because, you know, the taxpayers paid for those facilities and now they can’t use them,” said Steere. “We are looking for a way to not have to pay $3,000. For 50 years, it has never been a problem. That’s $3,000 we have to pay out of our budget for all these other things.”

Steere added the town doesn’t charge the school district to plow the regional facilities or for their use of any town fields.

“We’re talking about working together, right?” he asked. “It’s frustrating sitting here, as taxpayers, as well as being on the council.”

He noted the regional schools’ budget makes up a good deal of the overall town budget.

If approved by taxpayers, local funding in the budget for the upcoming year for regional schools will total $17,749,923, with a 2.76 percent increase over last year of $477,532. Foster will bear the burden of a .73 percent increase of $41,582, while the town of Glocester will take on 3.76 percent, totaling $435,949.  

The Glocester Town Council has voted to move forward a town budget of $34,181,062, which includes Glocester Elementary Schools and municipal funding, as well. Voter will have their say on the plan at a financial town referendum to be held on Tuesday, May 21.

“I can understand why they’re trying to tighten up the belt on their facilities and policies,” said Shields of the decision by the regional district to charge the town. “There have been numerous groups up there who have utilized the facilities for a very long time and haven’t necessarily paid their fair share. I kind of look at myself and my department as an unfortunate casualty of trying to serve a greater good.”

“There’s $3,000 right there we could have used for other needs,” responded Steere.

Supt. Renee Palazzo said the policy has been in place for a number of years, but has not been enforced. She added the fees were being charged mostly because there were adults using the facilities who were not residents.

Steere asked why residents were being charged and not just non-residents, and why Glocester Recreation was paying for everyone, including Foster residents.

“You’re saying people from other towns are using it,” he said. “Are you charging Foster a percentage of that?”

“The person or organization who fills out the building use form checks off they will pay those fees,” responded Palazzo. “Whoever completes that form then gets billed.”

She said she wanted to clarify that the region isn’t trying to get money from the town.

“The funny thing is, the people who play at the region, the highest percentage of them live in town,” said Steere. “So, they’re paying for it. I just can’t get past that one: taxpayers having to pay to use their facilities.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Couldn’t agree more with councilman Steere’s take on this. Also, Tax payers in town pay a lot toward funding the schools and many of them do not have kids benefiting from those services… they should atleast be able to use the facilities at no charge for something like this. This is coming from someone that has kids in the school system by the way, I’m grateful everyone supports the schools through taxes but I’m constantly reflecting on the fact that many residents are paying to support a school system they’ll never benefit from…. Atleast give them free access

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