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Summer camp

Earlier this month, an example surfaced of how tight local government budgets — made that way in big part by unfunded state-mandated spending and the state-imposed New York tax cap — can undermine cherished community services.

Moravia's town supervisor came to the Moravia Central School District Board of Education to report that the town can no longer afford to run a summer youth recreation program for students who live within the district's borders. One key factor is that surrounding towns with students in the school district have not been making their payments to the town to support the program.

In all likelihood, the Moravia Town Board will vote soon to drop the program. The supervisor was hoping that the district would take over, but that's not an easy decision. The school district has its own financial pressures, and finding $40,000 in the 2019-20 budget may not be feasible.

All of that said, it would a community setback to see the end of this program, which serves about 200 students over a six-week period by providing a robust array of programming at the Fillmore Glen State Park. Summer youth programs are a vital part of healthy childhood development. They stimulate children's minds, help them stay physically active, build their social skills and give them self-confidence. On top of all that, they can also be a huge service to working families in need of affordable child care options when schools are not in session. 

We hope the affected towns and the school district can come up with some way to work together to keep the Moravia program alive. To that end, we also urge them to turn to the state, which ultimately is a root cause of the financial hardships they all face. 

At a time when the state is talking a good game about supporting shared services among local government entities, small community programs like a rural summer youth program won't generate massive savings that elected politicians in Albany can brag about in press releases. But a few thousand dollars toward the Moravia and other similar programs can make a huge difference in keeping a vital service around for another generation of children.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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