City Councilman Lew Fidler has spent his nights this week at civic meetings railing against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed budget, which slashes city-funded afterschool programs. Fidler said the cuts are unacceptable, and the city can pay for the service with just a small portion of funds recovered from the CityTime debacle.
The councilman, who also serves as chairman of the Youth Services Committee, bashed the plan to do away with nearly half the slots in the city’s major afterschool programs, calling it “bad public policy.”
“The afterschool programs in our city provide meaningful contact with young people,” Fidler said. “The Mayor’s preliminary budget contains money for 28,000 [down from 78,000 two years ago]. That means that over half of our afterschool programs are closing entirely on September 1. That’s crazy talk.”
Fidler said that the cuts will usher in a new generation of delinquent youths, creating an overwhelming burden on the criminal justice system.
“We’re going to create a whole new generation of latchkey kids,” Fidler said. “All of that is a disaster. Now let me ask you what you think our local precinct commander thinks of the idea. I guarantee you any penny we save today on not having an afterschool program will cost us a dollar in criminal justice programs tomorrow.”
We have historical proof that if we don’t capture these kids and keep them with good choices … they’re going to find trouble,” he added. “Trouble for you, trouble for them. It makes absolutely no sense.”
Though earlier in the week Fidler noted that, given the city’s financial constraints, some cuts to the program were unacceptable, last night at the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association he noted that recent news revealed a new source of funds to protect the programs in their entirety: CityTime.
The firm responsible for developing an automated payroll project agreed Wednesday to pay the city approximately $500 million it made off the project, for which the budget ballooned from $68 million to nearly $700 million in what is being called one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated against the city.
The recovery of those funds provides a perfect opportunity to restore services like the afterschool program, which saw cuts year after year, Fidler said. He estimated that $50-60 million would restore the program to where it was two years ago.
“There’s no acceptable amount to be cut from the youth programs this time because we took a little piece last time and a little piece the time before,” Fidler said. “If we could use some of [the CityTime] money for the kids, it’s a good investment. Ten cents this year is a dollar next year, and that means money for the DA, the cops and the courts.”