A year ago, when Columbus officials were preparing city budgets for 2012, they reduced support for the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau by more than $2,000. According to Mayor Dave Povolny, most agreed then to cut another $2,000 from the city funding to the bureau in 2013.
As the mayor and council were reviewing budget items at a meeting on Aug. 8, Council members Jeff Duraine and Jessie Messina favored a motion that would keep Columbus’ giving to the Forest Lake-based program at $4,000 for 2013. The city gave $4,000 to LAYSB this year after contributing $6,180 annually in 2009 through 2011, according to financial sheets that officials were studying.
Povolny joined councilors Bill Krebs and Denny Peterson in outvoting Duraine and Messina’s support for holding the line on LAYSB. Peterson said he’d prefer to cut all tax funding for the program.
Mayor Povolny found himself tasked with casting the deciding vote on whether to maintain LAYSB funding at $4,000 for next year. He defeated the motion while saying, “I personally don’t think residents should fund it (through taxes). It should be funded elsewhere.”
Council member Krebs concurred. “The fundraisers and all that, is how it’s supposed to happen,” he said. “We’re not supposed to extract it (from the public).”
The mayor added that it would be inevitable for some Columbus youth to find themselves in situations where going through Community Justice is the only alternative to staying out of court.
As Columbus is reducing its support, “we can’t ignore the consequences that someone will have to pay for our kids to go through that,” Povolny said. “Our residents will still end up over there. Anoka County doesn’t have a program as sophisticated and good as this.”
The city’s five elected officials noted they were compromising by voting unanimously to set $2,000 in next year’s budget. “I’d like to get back ($6,180 to the program) through promoting and helping them educate our citizens,” Povolny said.
The mayor said some voluntary giving has begun, as the Columbus Lions designated all proceeds from a breakfast events to LAYSB.
For more than 35 years, the program partly has served to help juveniles repay a debt to their community if they have committed a misdemeanor crime. Often involving youth ages 12 to 17, according to LAYSB Executive Director Jeanne Walz, the program offers them a chance to work an established number of service hours in order to meet a legal obligation while avoiding the court process and keeping a shoplifting case or other misdemeanor from marring their record.
Often, she said, youth who have chosen to work off obligations through LAYSB’s Community Justice system have found hours in service through a city, school or church program.
Parents or guardians are expected and required to be involved through every part of the juvenile’s journey through LAYSB.
Walz says that according to law enforcement and correctional staff from participating cities and counties, 83 percent of youth who have gone through Community Justice – or five of every six juveniles – have avoided legal trouble after one year. The same agencies have reported their success is just 56 percent for youth who have not been through the program, Walz said.
LAYSB runs on an annual budget of $425,000, with 11 paid staff members or seven full-time equivalents. Walz said 55 to 60 percent of the budget is covered through non-government sources.
Two major fundraisers each year include a food tasting each July at Stars & Strikes Entertainment Center in Wyoming, and a “Black Tie Blue Jeans” gala next planned for Friday, Oct. 5, at Vannelli’s by the Lake.
The program’s government funding includes support from Forest Lake and other Washington County cities in School District 831, Columbus and Linwood in Anoka County, and Chisago County.