The idea of eliminating the Fulton County Youth Bureau was discussed at the Oct. 4 Board of Supervisors meeting.
This was proposed by Bleecker Supervisor David Howard, who said, "I'm not sure the youth program needs to be in operation. It doesn't do much of anything. I find that the money that comes into it is minuscule. Is this a business the county should be in?"
Youth bureaus, which funnel state money to youth programs throughout the state, have been the unfortunate victims of Albany's cuts every year over at least the past five years.
Charis Gray, part-time director of the Fulton County bureau, remembers when her bureau's budget was about $170,000; 10 percent to 35 percent cuts each year have whittled that down to a proposed $56,810 for 2013. That would be a 30 percent drop from $81,679 this year. The state pays half of Gray's $15,630 salary for 17.5 hours of work per week as the bureau's only employee.
The Youth Bureau helps support programs such as:
Recreational activities in the county's communities. It has helped summer day camps in Perth, Caroga and Northville and part of the summer cost of the Johnstown High School pool.
A youth counselor with Catholic Charities.
Counseling for at-risk youths through the Family Counseling Center.
A YMCA countywide weekly teen recreational and educational program.
Summer reading programs at the Johnstown and Gloversville libraries.
The Mental Health Association's after-school program for youths with emotional or mental problems.
Community Maternity Services case management, which helps unwed mothers find the services they need.
Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Prevention Council's anti-drug, anti-violence program in schools.
Citizens in Community Service, which works with City Court to provide community service projects for youths.
With such meager funding, the Youth Bureau seems to do quite a bit, especially when it consumes only about $11,000 out of an $88 million county budget. If the bureau were eliminated, the county would get none of the state money channeled through the bureau.
Johnstown 1st Ward Johnstown Supervisor Richard Handy, a volunteer on the bureau's advisory board, said the state budget cuts are "discouraging, and I hope the state realizes that youth programs are valuable."
He said the annual Youth Recognition Dinner, which honors outstanding youths and recreational activities, is among the worthwhile Youth Bureau programs. "You can't have these kids walking the streets on weekends," he said.
Supervisor Howard is misguided in his comment about the Youth Bureau doing little. The issue isn't how much the bureau does with its small budget, but how much the county wants to invest in services for its young people.