Tuesday night's Common Council meeting had been going on for an hour before the part of the meeting we've already reported on began. The first hour of the meeting was taken up primarily with a discussion of a resolution to amend the budget for the Youth Department, adding $50,751.65 to be taken from the fund balance.
This is not the first time the Youth Department has needed its budget amended. Back in 2016, after the summer program at Oakdale was over, the Youth Department was $4,000 over budget, with four months go in the year. That year, the Council approved a transfer of $25,000 to the Youth Department to keep it going. In the budget for 2017, the Youth Department budget was increased by 6.1 percent, and it was proposed that instead of moving the entire operation to Oakdale for the summer, which seemed to be greatest cause of financial stress, the Youth Center at Third and Union streets would remain the primary location throughout the year. As it turned out, summer program in 2017 happened at Oakdale just as it had in the past. Before the summer began, the Common Council approved, on May 16, 2017, transferring $75,266 from the fund balance to the Youth Department budget.
At the Common Council meeting on Tuesday, four new resolutions were introduced having to do with the Youth Department. The first transferred $8,500 from the Youth Donations account to "the proper accounts to pay for water treatment of Oakdale lake, re-distribution of sand at Oakdale beach and other improvements to the beach house." The second accepted $5,973.21 in donations from the Polar Plunge, which happened back in February. The third accepted $2,025.00 in Fishing Derby donations. The fourth requested an increase of $50,751.75 in the Youth Department budget, to come from the fund balance. (The amount budgeted for the Youth Department in 2018 is $370,000.)
The attachments to the resolution itemized how the money would be used: $6,951.17 for the fire alarm system at the Youth Center; $3,990 for a finger printing protocol for Youth Department employees; $6,995 for an electronic check-in system; $4,000 to repair the heating system at the Youth Center; $1,049.48 for staff uniforms (T-shirts and hoodies); $5,700 for a fence at Oakdale to keep balls from rolling into the lake; $9,300 for repairs to the beach house at Oakdale; $3,526 to pay staff to make repairs to the beach house; $9,240 to pay the lifeguards at Oakdale Lake.
Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward), who sits on the Youth, Education, Seniors & Recreation (YES&R) Committee, was the first to comment on the proposed resolution. He urged that the Council reassess some of the requests. Kamal Johnson (First Ward), who chairs the YES&R Committee, argued that the money requested was needed to address safety issues. Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) maintained there were things that "cannot wait," citing in particular the fire alarm system. Later, Nick Zachos, youth director, indicated that the alarm system could wait, because there is no programming at the Youth Center during the summer. Rob Bujan (First Ward) suggested they go down the list and decide items were critical and which could be deferred. Zachos identified four priorities: finger printing ($3,990), the fence at Oakdale (($5,700), repairs and renovations at Oakdale ($12,826), and lifeguards ($9,240). Tom DePietro, Council president, suggested they delete money for the fire alarm ($6,951.17) and the heating system ($4,000) at the Youth Center and vote on the amount that remained: $39,800.48.
It was then that city treasurer Heather Campbell interrupted the process with some observations: the Council had just accepted $8,000 in donations for the Youth Department; there was $5,000 in donations from last year in the Youth Department budget that had not been spent; last year's $75,266 budget amendment included $13,400 for improvements to the Youth Center, which included fire suppression and the heating system, and money was being requested again for the same purpose.
After much discussion (all of which can be viewed in Dan Udell's video), during which Bujan suggested amending the resolution "to insist that donated money be used first before dipping into the fund balance," and Zachos and Peter Frank, speaking presumably on behalf of Friends of Hudson Youth, insisted that donations were not unrestricted funds (the Fishing Derby donations, for example, were specifically for water treatment and stocking the lake with fish), DePietro decided the resolution could not be amended on the fly and called a special meeting to take up the issue. That meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 27, at 6 p.m., at City Hall.
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