Tag: coaches

Saratoga Springs parents, coaches make plea for recreation

SARATOGA SPRINGS – More than a dozen coaches and parents spoke out at Tuesday’s City Council budget hearing against cuts to the city’s recreation program, a casualty of what Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan calls the “COVID economy.”

Madigan and the Council were told that cuts to the programs are “setting the wrong example” and elimination of soccer, skating, summer camps and other activities is “not in the best interest of our kids’ mental and physical health.” One mom, Frieda Miller,  said the programs are needed to give families like hers hope.

The crowd showed up for the hearing, which typically proceed with little to no public input, after an email was sent on Friday to thousands of recreation participants saying the program are “at stake” and urging parents, coaches and players to ask the Council to “not defund recreation.”

“We are concerned about the potential interruption of the (Weibel Avenue) rink and how our programs will affect us,” Mary Brophy Magnus of the Saratoga Winter Club said. “We are aware that the budget cuts impact a much wider swath of sports than speed skating. We are willing to work with the community and the rec department during this time.”

It’s a tough time for the city. It is expecting a $6.8 million budget shortfall over 2020 and it will raise taxes, layoff public works and public safety employees as well as ask City Hall employees who remain to take a 10 percent pay cut. In her original budget message, which was released on Oct. 6, Madigan noted that the “recreation department budget has been reduced to exclude all formerly planned programming.”
 
However, on Tuesday, she tried to assure those who attended that the recreation budget still has some allocated funding, $1.2 million, for staff, building and grounds, maintenance and utilities. She also said as 2021 progresses and a federal relief package becomes available, recreation programs might be restored. For now, though she said, “recreation programs cannot occur though, without any additional costs to the city.”

“It does not mean recreation is shutting down,” Madigan said. “As a budget neutral program is implemented … the budget will be amended to include them.”

Mayor Meg Kelly told the audience that the council full agrees, but “we have to work to make it budget neutral.”

Parents and coaches, who worried about facilities becoming dilapidated, suggested raising fees, others raising private funding and yet another, raising taxes higher than the proposed 6 percent.

But Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who is facing a 15 percent cut in police and firefighters, brought the audience back to reality, saying the public must realize the city is struggling to maintain essential services.

“The city has not determined how it will maintain essential services,” Dalton said. “Essential service is what this city needs to continue to operate. They are water, sewer, roads, fire, EMS and police. Unless we can assure those essential services are intact, we have nothing. We can’t operate. We won’t be able to drive to

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