|Rector reacting to being struck on the arm with a bag of feces|
The people who showed up at last night's BEA workshop were angry, incited to attend by emails announcing that popular youth director Nick Zachos had been fired. People at the meeting, as well as BEA member Tom DePietro, suggested that the action was somehow connected with the budget, and many present argued that Zachos was essential to the success of the Youth Department. Rector's attempts to explain that Zachos had not been fired, he was still employed at the Youth Department, but his job had been redefined to focus his strengths and talents to best advantage, and that the salary for a director was still in the budget, fell on unreceptive ears. Rector was accused of lying, trying to undermine the Youth Center, firing a man who was "a bridge to those kids," and denying the Youth Center the funding they deserve.
The Youth Department has a history of money problems, ever since the City took over the Boys and Girls Club nearly twenty years ago. In 2016, the Youth Department ended the summer $4,000 over budget, with four months to go in the year. A budget amendment was required then to keep the doors of the Youth Center open. The budget for 2018 saw an increase of 41.2 percent in the Youth Department budget, and it's been reported that the budget now being considered for the Youth Department involves another 50 percent increase.
Last night, Peter Frank, a staunch advocate for the Youth Department and one of the organizers of Friends of Hudson Youth, posted a comment about the budget workshop on Facebook in which he stated:
The BEA claims every department in the city has been cut "to the bone." Well, they went though the Youth Dept. budget tonight with a fine tooth comb (I'd wager more aggressively than any other department) and took out everything that wasn't critical so now that also been cut "to the bone." Is it higher than last year's by a greater percentage than other departments? Of course it is. It's been chronically underfunded while other departments increased every year.Since it seems nobody from the public attended any of the BEA workshops on the budgets for other departments it may be unfair to suggest that the Youth Department budget was scrutinized more aggressively than any other. It is also unfair to suggest that the Youth Department budget has not regularly increased over the years. Is it still underfunded? Probably. But it is disturbing to see the kind of misleading provocations we see on the national stage, with half-truths disseminated by social media to frighten and incite people, playing out in our little city--especially by adults who define themselves as advocates for our youth.
The major takeaway from last night's budget workshop for many in Hudson is that property taxes will be going up, by either 5 percent or 7½ percent.
Dan Udell was there to document the workshop, which went on for more than two hours. That video can be seen here.
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