South Orange Restores YouthNet Funds, Approves Hiring Business Recruiter

South Orange agreed to allocate $10,000 for a business reruiter. (File photo)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The Village Board of Trustees reversed a decision to cut 20 percent from its funding for YouthNet, a nonprofit organization that organizes enrichment activities for middle school students.

By a 4-2 vote at Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, trustees approved a service agreement with YouthNet for $15,000. At its April 23 meeting, the board had voted to reduce the allocation to $12,000. Voting no were Trustees Janine Bauer and Deborah Davis Ford. Ford was adamant that cuts in funding to both YouthNet and the Community Coalition on Race be the same. “It’s a perception of fairness,” she said.

Also on Monday night, the trustees approved a service agreement with the CCR for $18,000 and agreed to allocate $10,000 to hire a part-time business recruiter.

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Miriam Sumner, a member of the YouthNet board of directors, said a $3,000 cut would result in the loss of seven clubs in the middle school and that YouthNet would not be able to serve 100 children now participating.

YouthNet Executive Director Diane Malloy said the group was under the impression they would receive the full amount requested for 2012. “We’re really, really trying hard to make a difference in the community,” she said.

More controversial was the decision to approve a service agreement with the CCR. The board split 3-3 on the $18,000 service agreement, with Trustees Bauer, Davis Ford and Mark Rosner voting in favor. Village President Alex Torpey voted "yes" to break the tie, and the service agreement was approved 4-3.

Prior to the vote John Purkett, of South Orange, called the funding of the Community Coalition on Race “a subversion of government process” because he said the board had not identified actual services to be provided by CCR. “I looked at the proposed service agreement, and it does not look like a service agreement to me,” he said.

However, Fred Profeta, a former member of the Maplewood Township Council, said the services of CCR and YouthNet “are of incredible value,” citing the work of hundreds of volunteers. He argued that programs and events sponsored by the CCR, such as the marketing program, the touring committee and the MLK Day celebration, “translate into market value.”

Two trustees voiced reservations about the agreement. Trustee Howard Levison said that “the math doesn’t add up” in the CCR service agreement. Trustee Michael Goldberg said: “It’s not ready. To vote on it would be premature.”

After the service agreement passed, the board referred it to the Finance Committee for review and clarification.

Supporters of hiring a business recruiter to attract new business to South Orange were successful in their pleas to have the trustees allocate funding in the 2012 budget. Trustees voted 6-0 in favor of hiring a business recruiter, but they stressed such a move would be made in consultation with the board of the Special Improvement District, which is expected to be named soon.

Robyn Fields, owner of Robyn Ross Designs in South Orange, had urged the trustees earlier Monday evening to restore funding for a business recruiter. “There needs to be a partnership between the village and the SID,” she said. “To leave it off completely would be a huge mistake.”

Gould agreed, noting the SID would not be up and running soon enough. “We really need to get a good retail mix,” she said. “We’re close, but we’re just not there yet.”

Although the 2012 municipal budget was the agenda, delays in the review by the state Division of Local Government Services forced the trustees to postpone a vote. However, the board agreed to open the public hearing on the budget and continue it to the next meeting, which will be the special reorganization meeting on May 21.

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