Budget cuts could ax Jackson's summer youth programs - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Budget cuts could ax Jackson's summer youth programs

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Potential budget cuts for the Capital City could impact thousands this summer, including hundreds of area youth.

Jackson city leaders told council members Thursday the reserve fund took a serious dip, from the $9 million that's supposed to be set aside for emergencies to an estimated $1.4 million by year's end.

"The city isn't broke. What the city is, is racing towards a catastrophe," said Jackson City Council President Melvin Priester Jr.

The revelation Thursday that millions of dollars have been taken from the city's reserve fund, spent to balance two fiscal year budgets, means tough conversations lie ahead, including the city's summer youth and enrichment programs that typically employ and involve hundreds of kids.

"We did interviews for kids in March. You can look on the city's web page and you can see where we say work starts the first week in June," Priester said. "To put this on the table just two weeks before the school year is over, when were we gonna discuss this?"

A source close to the program tells 3 On Your Side those youth selected for the summer program have already had orientation.

And already, council members have heard from parents about the possibility of their kids suddenly having nothing to do.

"Had someone called me last night about it," said Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon. "The summer jobs program helped us in so many ways here to keep children occupied and off the streets. And as you know, we have a problem here with young people right now, with nothing to do."

Priester said Mayor Tony Yarber doesn't need the council's approval to cut the program and save money, listed as one of several adjustments proposed in a May 9 memo obtained by 3 On Your Side.

That memo also states the Jackson Police Department has used 91 percent of its overtime budget, six months into the budget year.

Chief Lee Vance said that's not a complete picture.

Vance said the department can reallocate more money from within its budget to fix the problem.

In fact, he said the full budget shows they're exactly where they need to be: 49.8 percent used, halfway through the fiscal year.

"I've known Lee Vance for many years, and if this budget were that far out of line, that would raise questions for me, because he's always been a good manager," said Barrett-Simon.

Priester said because the city told council members last September the reserve fund would be met and then months later said something different means he's even more skeptical now.

"If they can be that wrong about just the basic facts about how we got here, how can we know that they're being accurate about the numbers they're presenting now?" said Priester.

3 On Your Side reached out to the city of Jackson to see when these cuts, including the summer youth program, could begin, but have not yet received a response.

Barrett-Simon said the city council will start addressing these budget issues Monday.

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