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Letter: Funds From Red Light Cameras Supposed To Fund Health And Human Service Programs

On June 4 the Manhasset/Great Neck EOC received a letter from County Executive Edward Mangano informing us that, as the result of “certain actions” taken by the Democratic Legislators, our youth program contract with the county might be terminated. On June 6 we received a letter from Margaret Malito, executive director of the County’s Office of Youth Services, informing us that “Nassau County hereby elects to exercise its right… to terminate said contract effective July 6, 2012.” On June 12 we received a letter from the Minority Caucus of the County Legislature (the Democratic members) detailing, from their perspective, everything the Republicans have done that have brought us, once again, to the point of losing our county contract to provide services to at-risk youth in Manhasset and Great Neck.

If all of this sounds familiar it is because all of the county’s youth services programs including the Manhasset/Great Neck EOC have been threatened with terminated contracts and budget reductions every year for the past four years. If nothing changes, all 40 youth services agencies in the county will lose their funding and could, as a result, be forced to close their doors.

In 2009 the county executive, who was a legislator at the time, voted in favor of legislation that stipulated that revenue from red light cameras would be used exclusively to fund Health & Human Service programs. This was supposed to avoid future threats to funding for youth, senior citizen, and mental health programs. And yet just recently the Republican Majority at County Executive Mangano’s request has diverted the red light camera money to the general fund leaving youth programs, once again, vulnerable to threats of closure.

That local officials would think there is some logic in closing programs throughout the county that provide a variety of services to our most vulnerable children, youth and families is baffling. The fact that they feel it is appropriate on an annual basis to threaten programs with de-funding and closure is reprehensible.

For us at the Manhasset/Great Neck EOC, the potential impact of this loss of funding is devastating. Our youth board contract pays the salaries of all Manhasset/Great Neck EOC youth staff (youth director, program coordinator, recreation aide), the executive director’s salary, and expenses related to building maintenance and program operations—utilities, phone bills, office and classroom supplies, trips and activities for the children, etc. As of July 6 we will have no choice but to lay off staff and eliminate programs. Head Start and the Adventures in Learning after school program will still be here, but neither can replace what the county will have taken away.

Stephanie Chenault
Executive/Head Start Director
Manhasset/Great Neck EOC