Herbst: Why we need to reorganize Parks and Recreation
To the Editor:
This past week, the Town of Trumbull was once again recognized as one of the top five communities of choice in the State of Connecticut. Trumbull is earning this state and national recognition because of our commitment to strong finances and stable taxes, a strong educational system, and even more importantly a strong quality of life. One of the hallmarks that makes our quality of life so strong is our park system. In 2011, the voters of Trumbull approved a Charter Revision that consolidated the Parks Commission with the Recreation Commission. While the commissions were consolidated the departments have not yet consolidated.
Sports organizations and recreational users in our community have expressed concern and frustration with the lack of synergy between our parks system and our recreational programs, available field time for different sports teams and the overall quality of the programs that we offer. Based upon these concerns, my administration reached out to other communities to determine what we were doing right and what we could do better. Our review revealed that our department currently is not structured like other Connecticut communities. Our review concluded that our programming is behind the times and inadequate for the needs of our community.
Unlike other operating budgets, Parks and Recreation Departments generate significant revenue. That revenue should be broken down by cost center, by program and by number of participants. Enough revenue is generated by other communities to cover expenses, making the departments and the programs self-sustaining. At a recent Board of Finance public hearing, it was acknowledged by current staff that they were unclear where revenue was allocated. This must change. These revenue sources allow us to improve and expand the recreational programs we offer to children and seniors alike, with no additional burden to the Trumbull taxpayer.
The new director will be responsible for consolidating management functions for our parks, recreational programs and golf course. In my proposed budget, this reorganization reduced the overall employee headcount and the overall departmental budget. A newly reorganized department must also bring the Trumbull Youth Association (TYA) into the Parks and Recreation Department. These programs impact children and are developmental in nature. These worthy programs should not be islands unto themselves; they should be part of our overall mission to improve programming and services for all of our residents, young and old alike. The salary for this proposed position is substantially lower than the same position in adjoining communities. The very same people that complain about the salary to hire a qualified individual to provide programming for 36,000 residents had no problem approving a $106 million budget that impacts 5000 students. If we believe making an investment in our schools strengthens our quality of life, then we should also believe investing in services outside of school will benefit Trumbull’s children and seniors alike. A strong park system with improved recreational programs, greater synergy, greater efficiency and less cost to the Trumbull taxpayer is a win-win that improves our overall quality of life.