Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca said at Saturday's budget hearings he will not vote again for township funding to YouthNet. If the funding is cut by Maplewood, South Orange could follow suit, or fund as usual.
Representatives from the non-profit, South Orange/Maplewood-based youth enrichment organization presented their accomplishments from 2012 and goals for 2013 before asking the Maplewood 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, afterschool 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 if they can’t get funding this year, they will have to drastically cut services, including scholarships and afterschool 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.”
YouthNet will discuss funding with the South Orange Board of Trustees on Monday, Feb. 11.