Much of this summer will be a bummer for many city youths, after the city Common Council slashed funding for summer employee salaries, essentially shutting down summer programs through the end of July, and probably longer.
Mayor Brian Tobin said the city had to make cuts to compensate for an expected drop in sales tax revenue. The city laid off 18 employees.
“Most of our programs we have planned in that time frame have been shut down,” said John McNerney, the city’s director of recreation and parks and youth bureau.
While city officials have set July 31 as the date to end the closures, McNerney said the cuts will make it difficult to restart some programs and services in August, even if the city were to recall furloughed staff.
Lifeguard salaries, for instance, have been cut from the budget. Even if that money were restored, McNerney said it would be hard to vet and hire certified candidates in time. He would also have to prepare the pools, order chemicals and obtain health certifications, with no staff to help him.
“We’d love to open the facility, but we might not have the lifeguards to do that,” McNerney said. “It’s not easy to snap your fingers and say, ‘We’re going to open up a facility. It’s just unrealistic to do that.”
But Tobin said that while these problems are difficult, they are not insoluble. It’s possible, he said, that the city could offer programs in August — or even earlier, if circumstances change.
List of Summer cancellations
These Cortland Youth Bureau programs and services are canceled:
- Home-Cort Youth Lacrosse League.
- Little Sticks Lacrosse.
- All adult softball leagues.
- Cathy Stage Softball League.
- All youth and adult basketball leagues.
- SLU Basketball Academy.
- Arts, Parks and Books.
- Library at Lunch with Miss Tammy.
- Arts and Crafts Camp.
- Summer Arts & Crafts.
- Summer Drama Program.
- Movie under the Stars.
- Summer Concert Series.
- Fishing Derby.
- Firefighter for a Day Camp.
- All Police and Fire demos at the parks.
- Summer Park Program.
- Youth Center summer field trips.
These city facilities are closed until further notice:
- Wickwire Pool, including Red Cross learn to swim, adult early bird swim, and adult lap swim.
- Yaman Beach.
- Splash Pad at Suggett Park.
- All park buildings, playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts and restrooms.
- Youth Center, including all programming.
- Yaman pavilions 1, 2, and 3 and Rotary Shelter.
- Skate Park.
- Community Garden.
“It’s going to be a herculean effort if the restrictions are lifted,” he acknowledged. “But if the situation changes, and the economic outlook ain’t as bad as it sounds, we’ll revisit.”
Tobin said it’s important that residents maintain hope for a normal future, which he said city officials will try to provide in the form of summer programs and parks services, if possible.
“Mentally and emotionally, I don’t want to take that away from the community,” he said. McNerney said the budget cuts were a big blow to take, but even worse is the uncertainty over the future.
“This is probably the greatest challenge my staff has to face — not knowing when things will get back to normal,” he said.
“I pray for the day that we can bring these programs and services back.”
He suggested that residents who value these programs tell city officials “why the youth bureau’s services are essential to them.”
McNerney, who also administers the Gutchess Sports Complex in Cortlandville, has been having talks with town officials there about the summer schedule for that facility, which is now closed.
He expects that other municipalities in Central New York will follow Cortland’s lead in shutting down or curtailing summer recreation programs.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if other communities follow suit in the near future,” he said.
Modified programs may be offered later this summer, such as sports instructional clinics instead of leagues, or perhaps sandlot-type baseball games.
“There are some options out there that I need to explore a little further,” he said.
Tobin said that summer programs depend on two things: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s orders regarding stay-at-home and social distancing rules, as well as financial projections.
If state restrictions loosen and the city gets more sales tax revenue than anticipated, the current cuts and closures can change, he said.
“I’m not giving up on the potential to open facilities over the summer,” Tobin said.