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Youth Programs May Be Cut

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Original Title:
Youth Recreation Programs on Chopping Block in Tuolumne County

Youth centers serving young people in a number of Tuolumne County towns could be eliminated as county supervisors enact budget cuts.

Expected to be shuttered by the end of summer are the Tuolumne Youth Center, youth centers in Jamestown and Groveland, and mobile youth centers that serve Columbia, Chinese Camp, Twain Harte, Don Pedro and Crystal Falls. Center operators say the programs combined serve between 1,100 and 1,250 kids.

Teenagers at the Jamestown facility are disappointed they may soon have no place to go. Besides having games at their disposal, kids could get homework help. "Before I came to the youth center I got an F in math and I raised it up to a C when I came here." said Andrew Buster.

Center director Erin Begley said there are other services the youth programs provide. "We're doing some health programs. Get up. Get active. Eat right. And we plug in teen pregnancy prevention."

Tuolumne County supervisors are looking at cutting 40 percent or $400,000 from the county's recreation budget. That's just part of cuts supervisors must make. Voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase, Measure P, earlier this month that would have collected $3 million for sheriff deputies, police and firefighters. The county must now pay for those public safety services and is cutting all county departments by an average of more than 10 percent to do so, including eliminating some staff positions.

Some parents do not see where reducing or eliminating youth programs is going to help in the long run. Gay Spencer sees more kids with nothing to do just getting into trouble. "They write graffiti on the walls. They break the windows in the classrooms and it will just give them more time to do this," she says.

Supervisors will make final budget cuts by mid-August.

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