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Cuts force reduced hours at Evansville Youth Center

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GINA R. HEINE
February 11, 2010
— The Evansville Youth Center will be closed this summer under a new contract between the city and the YMCA of Northern Rock County.

The agreement also reduced the number of hours—from 15 to 10—the center is open after school each week.


The center’s hours were cut starting in January, and the city and the YMCA worked under a “handshake” agreement, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said. The city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the contract.


A tight city budget forced officials to cut funding for the youth center by $10,000 this year. That translated into programming cuts proposed by the YMCA, which operates the center at the city-owned building at 209 S. First St.


“When talking about services, especially for kids, especially in a small community, it’s devastating if they have to take a cut financially,” council president Mason Braunschweig said. “But unfortunately because of the nature of the budgeting process, it’s one of the first places you look at for a cut.”


Police services, snow plowing and other daily services can’t be cut, he said.


“Inevitably, these really nice services that are great for the community end up getting cut because at the end of the day life can go on without them,” he said.


Signing the agreement was delayed a month because council members wanted more information. Concern arose at the finance and labor relations committee because the YMCA proposed a cut in services of about 50 percent even though the center’s budget was cut only about 30 percent, Braunschweig said.


“It did look like a discrepancy at its face,” he said. “We wanted to get more information on what that cut in service aspect meant to the program as a whole.”


The bulk of the service cuts—closing the center in June, July and August—is when attendance is the lowest, he said. The youth center averages 17 students after school, but has “significantly less” students in summer, he said.


YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer said the service cuts had to be made because the funding cut limits activities and affects supplies and staff wages.


“Our goal is to stay there (in Evansville),” Den Boer said. “Whatever they can offer, we’ll adjust accordingly.”


The youth center’s advisory board also is looking into ideas for new, larger fundraising that could potentially restore some of the cuts, Braunschweig said. School officials have entered the conversation to work closer on the center’s future, he said.


Kids attend the youth center for free, which is a rarity to today’s youth center market, Den Boer said.


“It’s extremely rare, almost like it doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “(Typically there’s) always a nominal fee for youth to attend a youth center.”



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