Merced Youth Council funded

Merced’s Youth Council has been given a budget of $12,500 this fiscal year, but any unspent money will not be guaranteed next year after a vote this week by the Merced City Council.

A 5-2 vote from City Council approved giving the money to the council made up of young people.

Mayor Stan Thurston cast a dissenting vote, saying City Council needed a plan to ensure cash for future youth budgets. Councilman Mike Murphy, who cast the other “no” vote, said the Youth Council should have greater discretion over the funding.

According to city records, the approval vote by City Council on Monday established a general fund account that distributes the money to four Youth Council items: office supplies ($500), professional services ($7,000) and other materials ($1,000), as well as travel and training ($4,000).

Any money that the Youth Council does not spend during the fiscal year goes back into the general fund per rules for government funding, according to Thurston. So there is no guarantee City Council will continue to fund the Youth Council next year or any other year.

In order to get around that, Thurston asked City Council to approve contracting the full $12,500 to local nonprofit Symple Equazion, which had committed to breaking the money up over the next four years. “It pays, whoever the entity is that would except the contract, a little bit of money to cover their administrative costs,” he said. “And, it guarantees the Youth Council a certain budget for at least the four years.”

He also said United Way of Merced County or Merced Building Healthy Communities could also serve that role.

The benefit of that option is the Youth Council would have guaranteed money as opposed to having to return each year to ask for funding, Thurston said.

The idea gained no other support, as Councilman Mike Murphy and others called the method “unprecedented.”

Councilman Tony Dossetti said there was no need to contract with an outside agency, because city staff can handle it. He compared it to the way the city funds the Boys and Girls Club of Merced County, which receives funding approved by City Council each year. “I think the Youth Council is an important thing and it ought to be funded,” he said. “I just have a problem with passing it out to an outside agency to administer.”

During Monday’s meeting, Michelle Xiong, youth coordinator for Building Healthy Communities, said she would not support the mayor’s plan. She said the Youth Council should get the full $12,500 this year. “That’s what was allocated originally, so I don’t understand why (we would change) it,” she said.

Councilman Josh Pedrozo said he did not support contracting with an outside agency as it could set an unwanted precedent.

“I just have a hard time in starting to guarantee (funding for) different organizations or groups,” he said, “because then, who is going to come to us and say, ‘Well you guaranteed it for them. Guarantee it for us as well.’?”

By Thaddeus Miller. Merced Sun Star TMiller@Mercedsunstar.com