Leaders of the Merced Youth Council are pressing officials to dramatically increase their budget, but members of the City Council say they need more time to consider the request.
Funding of the Youth Council was a point of contention Thursday night during a budget study session.
At least 40 community members, including students, attended the meeting wearing bright orange shirts that read “Invest in Youth,” part of an effort led by the community organization Building Healthy Communities.
The city has proposed increasing the Youth Council’s budget by $500 to $13,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Mike Conway, assistant to the city manager, said that of 26 youth councils studied by UC Merced, Merced’s council is among the five that receive the most funding.
But Building Healthy Communities wants the City Council to give $75,000 to the Youth Council for training and events. Mayor Stan Thurston, who is in the final year of his role, has made increased funding for the group his top priority during his remaining time in office.
“Our new city manager (Steve Carrigan) asked me recently ‘What are three things you’d like to get done before you leave office?’” Thurston said to the large audience at Thursday’s meeting. “No. 1 is easy, right off the bat – to have a robust operating youth council by the end of this year.”
During a presentation, Conway detailed the youth council’s activities in the last year, which included a visit to the state Capitol and planning and hosting the Undivided Youth Fest music event in April. Conway also said the council has struggled to recruit new members to fill two empty seats and another seat that soon will be vacated when Linda Moua terms out.
With its $12,500 budget, the youth council spent $1,112 on the trip to Sacramento, $3,912 on the Undivided Youth Fest, $479 on miscellaneous expenditures, including pizza, and $4,760 is earmarked for special training from the Youth Leadership Institute out of Fresno.
Sol Rivas, who is on the neighborhood action team for Building Healthy Communities, told the council that young people who attended a recent rally pleading for more youth support in the city “reinvigorated her soul.”
“This is a wise investment,” she told the City Council.
Thurston proposed giving $50,000 to the Youth Council if Building Healthy Communities also could contribute funding. Tatiana Vizcaino-Stewart, a manager with the organization, said she couldn’t promise money from the California Endowment, BHC’s umbrella organization, but BHC would be happy to guide and support the Youth Council.
Councilmen Josh Pedrozo and Tony Dossetti were reluctant to jump on board with the mayor’s proposal.
Dossetti said in the past when the city requested $1,000 from Building Healthy Communities for pool repairs, the city received nothing. He said there needs to be some “trust building” between the two groups.
Pedrozo said the city also should consider using money to fund employee raises and update equipment.
City Manager Steve Carrigan said that even though the city held town hall meetings and was open to youth program proposals, he received nothing from Building Healthy Communities. Vizcaino-Stewart said she tried to contact Carrigan and heard nothing back.
The council did not take any action and plans to revisit the subject during its June 6 meeting.