Programs for youth may be on the chopping block

Posted at 11:19 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 06:07:20-04

They gathered in the shadow of City Hall, hoping to send a message to the people inside.       

Members of the non-profit group, BUILD, stood with parents and children from the Child First Authority, one of the largest funded after school programs in the city.     

"Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake has reneged on her promise to double after school funding, a promise she made to us, BUILD, during the 2011 election," said one man.

Back in June, the Mayor announced an additional $4.2-million to help fund after school programming and community resource schools.  Bringing the total for fiscal year 2016 to $10.3-million.         

But now there's talk in City Hall that it was a one-time investment.

"That amount of money has been removed from the after school budget,” said councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.  “So the effort is now, get it back on."

ABC2 News reached out to the Mayor's office, but they wouldn't comment because a preliminary budget hasn't been released yet, calling the claims speculative.

"Of all the years, of all the times for this, now to be the time that this money is taken back is wrong,” Clarke said.  “And I think it might be a mistake, it could be just the work of the budget people without the Mayor's full attention yet, and I’m hoping so because she was all in last year for putting the money in."

The city has struggled to close large budget gaps the last four years.  But the group who came together Monday says ignoring the kids and teens in the city is something leaders can't afford.

"To cut that funding now is confusing, people are angry and I have to say, very disappointed,” said Carol Reckling, Executive Director of Child First Authority.  “There was a need that the Mayor recognized in April of 2015, that need has not gone away, if anything, the need has increased."

Clarke, along with other City Council members pledged Monday to work to get more money for the City's youth in the budget.

"After the uprising, we got that money, but I will tell you this, my fear was not another uprising, my fear was that we wouldn't learn any lessons from it, my fear was that we would go whew and go back to business as normal, and this budget is a sign of that," said City councilman Bill Henry.

The Mayor's preliminary budget is set to be released next week at the Board of Estimates meeting.