The Town Board voted Tuesday night to restore funding cut from arts programs, but rejected the same thing for several youth programs.
The — rejected 3-2 by the Town Board Nov. 9 — went into effect when it didn't pass by the Nov.20 deadline. Included in that budget were cuts to arts programs that totaled $240,000; programs benefitting from town funding incude the , at , , , Whaling Museum, and .
Because insurance costs proved to be far lower than projected in August, town spokesman A.J. Carter said, funds became available to fund the programs.
Tuesday night's vote was not a direct vote to add funding but rather a vote to rescind the earlier cuts. With new board member Eugene Cook abstaining because he had not participated in earlier budget discussions, the vote was 3-1 to restore the arts money, with just Mark Cuthbertson voting against it.
“The time for a large-scale adjustment is past,” Cuthbertson said. “We should say what we mean and mean what we say,” he said, referring to promises of a certain level of spending and negotiations with town workers to keep costs down. “Now we are saying that you don’t have to share in that sacrifice,” he said. “The found money may well be needed for other things.”
But Susan Berland, Mark Mayoka and Supervisor Frank Petrone all argued that the arts programs benefited the entire community and helped drive the local economy.
The vote was met by cheers from the audience.
But the youth programs were another matter. While several representatives appeared stunned, the board rejected restoring funds, with Mayoka shifting his vote against them. That left the vote 2-2, with Cook again abstaining, and the vote thus failing to rescind the original budget.
But Berland vowed Wednesday to continue efforts to restore the cut funds. "I will introduce these resolutions at each and every town board until they pass," she said.
"The last thing we want is to take away programs from our kids. What angers me is we have colleagues who are country club members, their kids are enrolled in sports and other programs because they can afford it. And then they have the gall to vote against programs for kids who most need it," she said.
"I welcome everyone to come to the meetings, flood us with emails, phone calls, letters."
Diana J. Cherryholmes, executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, found Tuesday’s votes to be bittersweet.
“I’m very sad for my colleagues (in the youth and nonprofit agencies) though I don’t know what it means for their budgets,” she said. But, “We’re extraordinarily delighted, very thankful to the Town Board for passing this. I even appreciate the thoughtful manner in which Mark Cuthbertson declined to support it, although I disagree with his vote.”
She said the restoration of funding would allow, among many other programs, for the continuation of the summer arts festival over 44 nights, instead of the worst-case scenario of only 14 days.
On the flip side, the youth and nonprofit groups were left wondering what happened and what comes next.
Roseannn Miceli, the director of REACH Community and Youth Agency, addressed the board and thanked it for considering the reinstatement of funds, before the vote rejecting the proposal.
On Wednesday, she said, “We are very happy for the arts, very happy but sad for us, for the kids. Every dollar really does make a difference.”
The Dix Hills-based organization runs after-school social and recreational programs, volunteer opportunities, gang prevention and anti-bullying programs and other services for Huntington residents of the Commack and Half Hollow Hills school districts.