What budget cuts could mean to Community Center

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

Last week, members of the Bridgton Community Center’s Board of Directors urged the Bridgton Board of Selectmen not to cut their usual $75,000 appropriation by $7,500, or more, saying it could impact the programs they offer to local citizens.

Selectman Paul Hoyt told Steve Collins, who is president of the Community Center’s Board of Directors, April 12, “I assume you’re here about the (proposed) cut. Basically, we went down the line and cut from a lot of places where we hadn’t in the past.”

“This is going to be a serious cut out of our ability to provide for the town,” Collins said. “Since the Community Center opened, we have been running on a moral handshake. A 10% cut would really cut in to the muscle and bone of our budget.”

Collins explained that the Community Center directors had “looked very hard at what our income is” and felt that 3.5% to 4% of the budget could be made up by increasing fees, imposing fees or increasing fees where there had been discounts.

A cut in services?

“This is not a threat,” Collins stated, “but we are going to have to cut services.”

“We are open on demand, five days per week,” Collins explained. “We may have to curtail the hours.”

“And, there are going to be some good things for the community that are going to fall off the end,” said Collins. “Even with grants — we have found a number of problems seeking grants — we see a need to host a certain activity for the town and no one (grant program) is funding that — grants are more for bricks and mortar — but, if you want to find grants for programs, as the economy teeters, everyone’s shaking the grant tree harder and harder.”

Board of Directors member Mike Tarantino said the Community Center’s budget for last year was about $107,000.

“We don’t charge for programs brought in by other agencies and groups,” said Carmen Lone, executive director of the Bridgton Community Center. “We don’t charge fees for programs like LEA’s Discovery Kids. Our most popular program is the Senior Lunch program for senior citizens. Right now, we charge just a $2 donation, and we already have shortfalls due to increasing costs. Several support groups meet at the Community Center and we don’t charge them a fee — Alzheimer’s Support group, Pathways through Grief, Narcotics Anonymous, a Parkinson’s Disease Support group, a Medicare Advocate and a COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Support group. We also have a number of nonprofits that we believe is part of our Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Bridgton — the Lakeside Garden Club, Good Neighbors, and a Toddler Playgroup for which there is no fee and there are a variety of income levels who participate, and there are also group music lessons that take place. We also have the American Association of Retired People, Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging, and a Matter of Balance classes. Any fees go directly to the agency providing the program.”

“A 10% cut won’t close the doors (at the Community Center), but there is going to have to be some blood letting,” Collins said. “We believe we offer a very important service to the community…and when it poops out, it’s going to fall back on the community…We certainly hope the selectmen go back and look at the severity of a 10% cut.”

“Immediately, it will be a burden to absorb some of the costs the town is bearing,” said Collins.

“We hear you — we’re not through — and we take what you say very seriously,” Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr. told Collins and the others. “We could come to an agreement with (the Community Center Board of Directors) saying we’ll turn the building over to them and the town could do maintenance for another year. You know what I’m saying? But, we can talk about it.”

The Board of Selectmen is expected to finalize the proposed budget on May 4, but no later than May 11.

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