Potsdam OKs rec budget, $10K raise for director

Lynda Lawrence works on her form as she practices skating backwards Thursday during adult skating at Pine Street Arena in Potsdam. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — Town Board members voted to approve a recreation budget that includes what they said was a deserved $10,000 raise for the program director.

The vote came following a special meeting Tuesday night at Town hall with Recreation Director Trey T. Smutz and Village Mayor Reinhold J. Tischler, who is also a member of the village and town joint recreation committee.

The proposed recreation budget has an increase in total expenditures from $456,477 in the 2019-2020 budget to $461,195 in 2020-2021. That increase includes the full-time salaries going from $90,025 to $100,025.

Mr. Smutz told the board that the increase was to his annual salary of $44,217 to $54,217, an increase divided between the town and village boards.

Currently there are two full-time employees in the recreation department, Mr. Smutz and Derek Greene, an approximate 15-year employee who does maintenance and groundskeeping, Mr. Smutz said.

With a Master of Business Administration degree from Clarkson University, Mr. Smutz has been the recreation director for two and a half years.

During that time, he said he, at times, puts in about 60 hours a week, trying to accommodate anyone who wants to use what the department has to offer.

Sitting in the back of the room, Michael Edgar, the only member of the public to attend the meeting and a new Potsdam resident, said he wanted to make known the magnificent experience he had with Mr. Smutz, who returned early from a wedding in Rochester to rent him a kayak at Postwood Park in Hannawa Falls on a Sunday.

“That was very impressive, you know?” Mr. Edgar said. “It made a big impression about what Potsdam is all about . . . I think a lot of people would jump on moving to an area that is that friendly to people.”

Mayor Tischler said it was called “customer service.”

“You want to build that repeat business and some of the best advertising is word of mouth,” he said.

Town Supervisor Ann M. Carvill added that with modern technology, “the amount of work expected from workers, has expanded tremendously.”

“There has been a lot of free labor given over because you can be gotten morning, noon and night,” she said. “How far can we stretch you. I worry about that too.”

But Mr. Smutz said he hangs his hat on customer service.

“As much as I don’t want to be working all these hours, I want to be that person that you come to meet coming through the (arena) door for a birthday party,” he said to the board.

“I think, for me, it’s going to be safety and customer service,” he told the Times following the meeting, adding that the rec programs are plentiful and cost effective to the community.

Committee Chairwoman and Town Board Member Sarah L. Lister said Mr. Smutz had worked very hard, especially with the modifications that had been made over the summer, when the summer recreation program transitioned into a state Department of Health certified day camp.

“He has a lot of knowledge that he brings to the table and we want to make sure that he is being compensated in a competitive and a fair way,” Ms. Lister said. “I think Trey’s worked really hard to navigate the changes that have been required with the new regulations with the Department of Health and he has demonstrated, in a lot of different ways, his leadership.”

But in breaking down the proposed budget for the board, Mr. Smutz pointed to a number of items where costs to the town and village were also reduced, with board member Judith Rich calling Mr. Smutz conservative in his cuts, including a decrease in the budget for overtime, from $1,600 to $1,500, and reducing the equipment line from $23,000 to $20,000. That expenditure jumped from $10,400 in 2018-2019 to the $23,000 mark last year, partially because of an approximate $8,000 security camera system for the Pine Street Arena, Mr. Smutz said.

He told the board that increase was not something he saw long term, leading to the $3,000 reduction.

Additionally, electric services went down by $3,000.

Mr. Smutz said there was also a reduction in the money coming in, with total revenue decreasing from $133,400 in 2019-2020 to $127,200 in 2020-2021, with the largest decreases coming on the lines for swim lesson fees and donations and advertising signs, each dropping by $1,000 from $6,000 to $5,000 and $7,000 to $6,000, respectively.

That’s still a bump up from the $125,600 total revenue from the 2018-2019 budget.

Other ice rentals, gifts and donations, kayak rentals, each saw a $500 decrease.

Mr. Smutz said he and the rec committee were working on new ways to promote Pine Street Arena as more than just an ice skating rink and as the multipurpose center it is, for things like birthday parties and other gatherings.

Overall, the board approved the total joint recreation cost on the town’s behalf, agreeing to pay the village $166,997, their half of the $333,995 that the two municipalities split.

The next step in the recreation budget process is that the town will approve the total budget at one of its upcoming meetings and will pay the village for the joint recreational services. The village will then administer that money.

“So they, in their next budget, will determine how much money to contribute,” Ms. Lister said. “And that’s based in part on the budget that we just approved.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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