Community Services bridges Cape budgets

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The quarterly Community Services brochure just arrived in mailboxes across Cape Elizabeth, offering classes from lawn care to ballroom dancing, soccer camp, dance camp, and a Fort Williams walk. 

But Community Services offers more than what’s shown in the brochure.

In this tight budget season, Director Janet Hoskins has been trying to educate town councilors, School Board members and residents about the other work she and her department do.

Community Services’ budget falls under both the municipal and school umbrellas, often consolidating services for the whole town. It manages the school bus routes, supervises maintenance of town and school buildings, delivers all interdepartmental mail and disposes of the high school wood shop’s sawdust, in addition to scheduling all facilities and fields and running middle school athletics, adult education, the pool and fitness center.

Over the years, Hoskins said, Community Services has evolved and changed, picking up various school and town functions as they get trimmed from their original budgetary homes.

“We’re just one more addition to the big picture of how the one-town concept thrives,” Hoskins said.

When middle school sports had to be eliminated from the school budget last year, Hoskins’ office stepped up to the plate. Community Services already had the infrastructure in place to deal with collecting fees and paying sports-related bills, so “it was a natural place for it to go with the least disruption” to young athletes and their sports programs, she said.

But not all of their work is as visible, Hoskins said, so Community Services is often overlooked as an important town link.

When Public Works takes care of the outside of buildings, she said, they’re visible. “Community Services is under the radar,” Hoskins said. “Now, we need to make ourselves much more visible because of the economy.”

In the past, Hoskins said her department has not been targeted as a place for potential budget cuts. This year, suggestions to reduce funding for the fitness center, child care, and other programs surfaced during the budget process.

Hoskins has spent the last few months creating and justifying Community Services’ $1 million budget, which calls for $126,000 in tax support. That figure is $30,000 less than this year’s budget, thanks to some restructuring within the department, downsizing some camp programs, and the reduced cost of heating oil, which has been locked in at $1.94 per gallon.

A majority of Community Services’ funding comes from user fees, but it also gets support from the Thomas Jordan Trust Fund to cover scholarships and decreased tuition for those in need, as well as state funds subsidizing adult education.

By consolidating services within the school and town, Hoskins said her
department helps save the town thousands of dollars by spreading broad
management responsibilities over existing staff.

And the classes that are filling up enough to run in this tough economy – including computer, fitness and wellness instruction – are going to “help people get through this time and to the other end,” she said.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or