The Ridgefield Parks and Recreation Department is approaching this year's budget cycle with lower expectations after -- operating at a loss, the department is focusing on the essentials and not much more this time around.
The Parks and Rec. Department's revenue decreased again this year by 1.29 percent, a loss of $35,653 while its operating expenses have increased by $9,725, mainly for salaries, utilities and fuel, said Phil Kearns, department chair.
"Everything we're asking for this year is essential and important," Kearns said. "All of our expenses are important to our long-term plan."
There were some major decreases in expenses, though, in the form of utilities at the Recreation Center, but despite no additions to regular staff, salaries almost offset the difference.
The department is asking for several capital items, including two trucks and a mower to replace old ones, as well as fitness equipment, fencing and improvements at Martin Park.
Coming in at about $223,500, the capital budget request is smaller than last year's, which included the Spray Bay ticket item later denied by the Board of Finance.
One of the major hindrances to the Parks and Rec. budget is the competition derived from private gyms that offer less expensive memberships than the Recreation Center, but the department is looking for ways to be more strategic about attracting members.
"We've lost some individual members, but right now we're really pushing the family element," said director Paul Roche.
By offering an $85 per month all-inclusive family membership fee, Roche said the Recreation Center provides services families can't get other places in town, such as a pool and a family atmosphere.
Roche also said the Recreation Center has started to advertise more aggressively in nearby communities that don't have similar facilities.
Also operating at a loss is the skate park run by the department -- with a loss of several thousand dollars each year, the park continues to lose money despite fundraising efforts, Roche said.
Kearns said this is part of what the Parks and Rec. Department is there to do:
"Sometimes you have to offer services to the youth that don't make money."