News

City reduces funding for Teen Club

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

A $47,500 cut in funding from the City of Sequim for the Teen Club, also known as The Club, has Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula leaders turning their attention to other income.

 

The city helped start the center with $100,000 contracts in 2007 and 2008, before reducing the amount to $60,000 in 2009 and 2010.

 

On March 14, city councilors approved a $12,500 contract with the club to support the Teen Club program, which hosts, on average, 54 students ages 13-18 during the day and 30 in the evening.

 

Mary Budke, clubs executive director, said they originally asked for $100,000 again before amending the amount to $60,000.

 

The contract states the club must maintain its regular and drop-in hours and teen-centered programming through the school year and summer with a quarterly report given to the city council.

 

Each of the health and human services groups funded by the city receives a similar contract.

 

Jerry Sinn, the clubs’ board president, said his first thought upon the contract’s approval was that the club will need to find alternative funding. He also disagreed with a few councilors’ sentiment that the funding was a charity.

 

“We appreciate the money they gave us,” Sinn said. “But there’s a contract. We have to provide so many hours of programming to teens. We report on that contract regularly to them. I agree with that. But it’s not charity. It’s a fee for services we provide.”

 

Budke agrees, saying that the club provides a service the city can’t offer right now.

 

“The city has made a significant contribution, but there’s no YMCA, no parks and recreation services, nothing to take care of our citizens ages 13-18 in a consistent manner,” she said.

Teen Club budget

The Teen Club is budgeted for about $120,000 a year to operate with its daily cost fluctuating since 2007 from $290-$370. This amount is without administration or grantwriting expenses, despite staff time working on those.

 

Budke said the first year the Teen Club opened, it took more money to begin but they’ve since balanced its cost.

 

“The city is still continuing to show support for children and I’m not exaggerating when I say every dollar matters,” she said. “We’re grantwriting like crazy and trying to plan that we’re not dependent on just one funding source.”

 

Sinn said funding the Teen Club is threefold — grantwriting, dedicating fundraisers to the center and emphasizing private donations and outreach “It was obvious in December we weren’t going to get the $60,000 and we already started to write grants to cover ground,” Sinn said. “We’ve got a budget that includes the Teen Club budget and so far we’re on track with what’s projected in the budget.”

 

Some city councilors asked about the club possibly raising its fees, but Sinn said raising the fee isn’t in the nature of the program.

 

”The Boys & Girls Club is not a fee-based program. It’s open for all kids,” Sinn said. “You can’t do that and keep your membership fees really high. If you look at our rates, it’s one of the highest in the state ($30 a year). You can charge $100 a month but if you can’t collect, it’s a moot point. So many families can’t afford monthly fees.”

 

Last year’s annual auction was the first time attendees paid to sponsor student memberships specifically.
“I don’t want to be critical of the city council. That’s not the point. The fact of the matter is that they’ve supported the club for five years is a good thing,” Sinn said.

Boys & Girls Clubs’ budget

One looming problem for the clubs has been income versus expenses.

 

Last year was the first time since 2007 the clubs brought in more than they spent with an income of $997,669 and a difference of $36,160 on the plus side.

 

From 2007-2009, the clubs dipped into reserves at slightly more than $485,000.

 

Sinn said they’ve made significant changes in their expenses and intend to build up reserves. Sinn said their goal is to have one-fourth of expenses in reserves — roughly $220,000.

 

Last year also was the first time the clubs spent less than $1 million since 2007.

 

The 2011 budget is $950,000.

 

“We’ve made drastic cuts without reducing programs or hours and we’ve gotten much better with productivity and discretionary spending,” Sinn said.

 

When asked about why it took four years to bring in more than was spent, Sinn said they saw revenues dropping but it took them until 2010 to cut the budget.

 

“You can’t restructure overnight. We changed a lot of the things and ways we did things,” Sinn said. “We’ve been building our revenues, but it took us that long to get things in place.”

Programs offered

The real business at the Teen Club is helping students graduate.

 

“We’re doing a lot more tutoring than we were a few years ago,” Sinn said. “We got a wake-up call when a few of our teens didn’t graduate one year. Sequim still has a high dropout rate despite being competitive with other high schools.”

 

In 2010, the center saw 13 seniors graduate and about half go to college or trade school.

 

“The teen program is kind of the end game for what we’re trying to accomplish with these kids,” Sinn said.

The center offers a number of programs to help teens succeed. “Money Matters” helps students learn financial accountability and basic everyday math for balancing the checkbook and investigating stocks. Other programs include “Get Fit” — a health and wellness program — Zumba and “Guiding Good Choices.”

 

Teens also partner with the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society as volunteers.

 

Kristal Van Selus, the clubs’ program director, said one constant is that teens cook dinner for each other every night at the Teen Club.

 

“We’ve always done it but it’s important,” Van Selus said. “They sit like a family, too.”

 

Teens do some fundraising such as having an Arby’s takeover. Van Selus said the fundraisers don’t bring in a lot of money for the Teen Club but the donations are important and needed.

Support options

Sinn said he and other leaders aren’t panicking with less city support.

 

“We’re concerned,” Sinn said. “The services we provide are invaluable. We provide a safe place for kids. Working families don’t have to worry. It gives them an affordable solution. We do it with programs and building academic quality. It’s not just a matter of watching these kids but building programs and reinforcing their education.”

 

A recent fundraiser

“Promise of Hope — Gateway Foundation” provided half the gross income from its auction dinner to the Teen Club.

 

Half of the amount — about $21,500 — will go to the Teen Club and the other half to benefiting Ugandan children.

 

Budke said the event was their first-quarter fundraiser before the Campaign for Kids kick-off begins April 1, with their goal at $80,000.

 

“I feel citizens have step-ped up. They’ve donated $300,000 since the Teen Club started,” Budke said.

 

Teen Club is open 6-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 6-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, with drop-in hours from 2-6 p.m. Monday-Friday during the school year and noon-6 p.m. during camps.

 

Contact the Boys & Girls Club and Teen Club, 400 W. Fir St., at 683-8095.

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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