UPDATED: Mayor Says He Will Not Support Funding YouthNet
Youth enrichment organization may have to cut services, look for other means of funding.
The article has been updated with a comment from Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan.
Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca said at the Saturday budget hearings that he will not again vote for township funding to YouthNet.
Representatives from the non-profit, South Orange/Maplewood-based youth enrichment organization presented their accomplishments from 2012 and goals for 2013 before asking the township committee for a $15,000 contribution in the coming year. The request, the same amount as last year’s, would go towards funding YouthNet’s scholarship programs, after school programs and materials they use to seek larger-scale sponsorship.
"I have no quarrel with the services that are being provided,” said DeLuca, who voted to establish YouthNet years ago, “but I do not think that the town should be funding [YouthNet] services instead of other programs. I will not be voting for YouthNet’s funding this year.”
One of YouthNet’s goals from the beginning was to become a financially self-sufficient organization, independent of township funding. YouthNet Board of Directors Chairman Dirk Olin told the township committee he expects the organization to be able to stand on its own by sometime in 2014.
“There are times when YouthNet is not there,” said DeLuca. “During the hurricane, no one called me up and [asked], ‘How can YouthNet help?’”
“I would rather give the money to our recreation department,” he added. “[YouthNet] is not where I want to make the allocation. I want to support youth, but I don’t know if this is the best way.”
YouthNet Executive Director Diane Malloy told Patch that if they can’t get funding this year, they will have to drastically cut services, including scholarships and after school enrichment programs in order to secure private funding. Lack of funding from Maplewood will severely affect YouthNet’s path to self-sufficiency, she said.
“The mayor makes a solid philosophical argument,” said Olin. “But the proof is in the clubs and the number [of students] YouthNet serves.” Olin said YouthNet serves approximately 950 students in the middle schools and at the high school.
The rest of the township committee voiced neither support nor opposition to the mayor’s stance Saturday. However, Committeeman Jerry Ryan added, “This is a conversation that has to continue. There may be a compromise before we determine where the majority [of the committee] stands.”
Ryan told Patch in an email Monday that he is inclined to continue funding YouthNet, although he agrees with DeLuca about the need for the organization to improve its fundraising efforts.
"I do think that YouthNet has a revenue stream from fees and the capability of raising money from other sources to support subsidizing those that cannot afford the fees with scholarships," said Ryan. "I think it's fair to say that the members of the YouthNet board would agree with that statement, and that they share my disappointment with YouthNet's fundraising performance in the last calendar year: it was better than in prior years but still has a good way to go."
Ryan continued, "That said I think that the program is valuable and the monies subsidize users that would otherwise be unable to participate -- and it's those users that YouthNet was created to target in the first place."
YouthNet will discuss funding with the South Orange Board of Trustees on Monday, Feb. 11.
The committee decided to begin the process of raising the daily parking rate at the NJ Transit lot from $3 to $5 per day.
Ryan, who is also chairman of the finance committee, made the suggestion, saying, “if you look at [the cost of running the NJ Transit lot], particularly the meter systems and enforcement, we’re not covering costs… that $3 [per day] has not changed in decades… We’re not paying people the same as we were 20 years ago.”
The Springfield Avenue Partnership asked for approximately $13,000 for landscaping and marketing. They hope to add banners over the street to take advantage of the nearly 20,000 cars that travel it each day. They believe a large scale, highly visible marketing campaign will improve commerce and encourage business owners to get involved with the partnership.
The Maplewood Village Alliance announced they will see 100 percent occupancy in the area by March. They requested a $29,200 contribution from the township. Alliance representatives said they are particularly concerned about how the turnover of the Post Office site in the village will impair business. In an effort to improve the identity of the village and connect their marketing efforts, the alliance wants to add banners to each of the lamp posts in the area.
DeLuca suggested raising the township committee member salary from $3,920 per year to $5,000 per year. He said that with the rising cost of transportation, the committee often has had to reach into their own pockets to cover expenses. Ryan noted the committee salary has not changed in almost 20 years.
The committee will discuss revenue and capital at their meeting Tuesday night. The budget must be introduced by March 19.