Fall Town Meeting 2019

At 7PM on October 28, 2019, Georgetown will have its Fall Town Meeting, held in the auditorium of Georgetown Middle High School.

Among other issues on the warrant, there is an item up for a vote that will formally establish the Georgetown Youth Community Center and will transfer $45,000 from “free cash” into the GYCC.

The text of the warrant article is as follows:

“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds the sum of $45,000 (Forty-five thousand dollars) for the Community Teen Center, including any costs incidental thereto, or take any other action in relation thereto.

A favorable vote will allow the Georgetown Youth Community Center to hire staff and open its doors to students in Grades 6-10 throughout Georgetown.

 

YES!

Georgetown relies on the Town Meeting style of government, which means that every registered voter in town has a say in what happens in the town.  In order for a valid town meeting, 100 voters are required to attend and stay through the meeting to vote on the various articles found on the warrant.

The full warrant can be viewed here.

Please come out to the Fall Town Meeting on October 28 at 7PM at Georgetown Middle/High School and show your support for the GYCC!

About the Georgetown Youth Community Center

The Mission of the Georgetown Youth Community Center is:

GYCC is a safe and inclusive place where youth are empowered to express themselves, have fun and make new connections among peers and the community. The mission of the GYCC is to empower youth to use their voice and to make safe and healthy decisions. Our goal is to do this by creating engaging, relevant, student-led programming and supports that are sustained through community partnerships.

The idea of having a Youth Center in Georgetown is not new – indeed there have been previous attempts to build a place for our young people to go after school.  But they didn’t survive.

In 2017, Georgetown joined the Essex County Asset Builder Network (ECAB Network).  This Network is a group of six local communities (Georgetown, Amesbury, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury and Newburyport) who are committed to working together to find ways to support young people and help encourage healthy decision making.  The mission of the ECABN is:

“To use a positive youth development approach to build networks within each community and across the region that help decrease risk behaviors in youth and produce a healthier community.”

One of the first task of the ECAB Network was to conduct a regional survey to measure what protective factors young people had in the region.

While the results did show some positive results, such as 84% of Georgetown youth in grades 6-12 felt they had strong family support, were motivated to do well in school (80%) and had a positive view of their futures (76%), the survey also indicated some areas of concern. Youth indicated that they did not feel connected to and valued by their community. Only 41% of youth said they had a positive adult role model in their life, and only 30% of youth felt they were valued by the community. We also heard anecdotally that young people, especially middle schoolers did not have a place to go after school.  As mentioned above, having a safe space where youth can be supported and surrounded by positive adult role models and have opportunities to explore themselves and their environment is critical for successful development at this age.  With this information, the community of Georgetown committed to finding ways to build skills and positive qualities for their young people, and so concept of the Georgetown Youth Community Center was born.

A series of meetings led by our youth developed the mission and vision of the GYCC – not only ensuring that there was demand for such a place for our young people, but also ensuring that they would take an active role in its development, its programming, and its ongoing commitment to being an asset and a resource to our youth in Grades 6-10.

Research has shown young people need certain qualities, relationships and skills to grow up and be successful.  These can include, but are not limited to self-esteem, responsibility, good interpersonal skills, hobbies, positive adult role models and feeling valued by the community.  The more of these positive qualities young people have, the less likely they are to participate in risky behaviors such drug and alcohol use or violence.

Middle school is often a time of transition, and can be a difficult period for youth  where they begin to navigate the world on their own, and are looking for more responsibility and independence, but do not yet have the cognitive ability to be successful in making choices on their own.  This is also the time when we see youth start to experiment with risky behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol.   By building up these positive qualities or protective factors, during middle school age, we can help youth make healthy choices.

This is why it is critically important to support young people and show them they belong during this critical stage of development.  Typically, there is programming for younger children run by school or after school programs, and at the high school level there are many sports and clubs to get involved with, but many times middle school youth are overlooked at a time when they need support the most.

When asked what middle school youth do with their time, many responded they hang around town at a pizza place or Dunkin Donuts.  They are typically unsupervised and in large groups.  This can be disruptive to businesses and other patrons and not constructive for young people.

Having a place that is dedicated to middle school youth, that is staffed with capable caring adults, who can provide a developmentally appropriate balance of structure and autonomy in a safe an inclusive environment is critical.  The opportunity to explore new hobbies, make new friends, and feel like they have a say, and some control over their lives is crucial for young people at this age.  This in turn helps the community by limiting large groups of youth in public spaces, and also helps to create successful citizens of the community of Georgetown who have the knowledge, skills and support they need to give back and be successful, impactful members of the community.  The Georgetown Community Rec Center would give young people this opportunity.

Furthermore, the development of a healthy community relies on all members of the community feeling that they have a voice and that they matter to the functioning of the larger group. When the town invests time and money into projects it shows those populations that they are cared for.  While the school provides excellent education opportunities for our young people, youth need more than a good education to thrive.  It is the moral responsibility of all community members to care for and foster the healthy development of our young people.

To thank everyone that has helped the development of the GYCC would be impossible, but the effort is important, nonetheless.

The Friends of the GYCC would like to thank:

Our legislators, Senator Bruce Tarr, and Representative Lenny Mirra, along with Selectman Joe Bonavita and School Superintendent Carol Jacobs for their efforts at the state level.

The Board of Selectmen, Parks and Recreation, the Finance and Advisory Board, and Town Administrator Mike Farrell and Town Accountant Mary McMenemy for their effort in helping to navigate municipal government.

The Youth of Georgetown who stood up and not only asked for what they wanted, but also asked to have a hand in the process.  Their efforts have shaped the GYCC.  And the Youth that stepped up and made our summer events such a tremendous success.

Members of the Georgetown community who have donated furniture, equipment, games and supplies for the GYCC.  No one envisioned such a vibrant space would be possible.  Every time the people of Georgetown have been asked, they have delivered!

Our sponsors, including the Crosby’s, the Kiwanis Club of Georgetown, Cafe Sarina, the Cam Come Basketball Tournament and countless other financial (and food!) supporters.  The GYCC is truly defined by a town coalition helping to serve our youth.

The Custodial staff at GMHS.  Their efforts to clean, paint, and organize the GYCC has been transformational.

… and the countless parents, youth, business, and other supporters who have provided additional moral, logistical, financial, and visionary support to help bring the GYCC this far.

Logistics

There are times when town government cannot completely finance the needs of a Town Department or program.  Municipal governments in Massachusetts are not allowed to fundraise for their operations.

When this happens, a group of citizens can put together a “Friends Group” – an independent nonprofit organization that seeks to raise funds on behalf of a town program.  As a result, the Friends of the GYCC was established on behalf of the Town of Georgetown to provide a fundraising mechanism to support the Georgetown Youth Community Center.

Georgetown already has several other similar “Friends of” organizations to help support the operations of other groups in town – these independent fundraising and advocacy groups are critical to the success of these program.

  • Friends of Georgetown-Ipswich Wrestling
  • Friends of the Georgetown Peabody Library
  • Friends of Camp Denison
  • Friends of the Georgetown Council on Aging

Similarly, the Georgetown PTA and Georgetown Education Foundation were formed to help raise funds for special projects in the schools.

The Friends of the GYCC is overseen by an independent board, and is not owned or managed by the Town of Georgetown.  Similarly, the Georgetown Youth Community Center will not be owned or managed by the Friends of the GYCC – its operations, financing, management, and review procedure will take place in Town Hall.

Category: Logistics

As a town entity, the Georgetown Youth Community Center will function like any other town entity and will enjoy coverage in the town’s existing liability and other insurance policies.

Initial budgets for staffing rely on part time employees, which will require limited employer taxes.

During the Summer of 2019, the Georgetown PTA served as a fiscal sponsor for the Friends of the GYCC, providing insurance and initial structural and financial support.

The Friends of the GYCC has a series of events scheduled in October 2019 for which it has secured its own liability insurance.  Until such time as the GYCC is formally established by the town, it will access the Youth Center as any other non-profit group in Georgetown utilizes space at the public schools.

Category: Logistics

Initially, participation at GYCC activities will be limited to youth in Grades 6-10 – that is, approximately age 12-16.  Participation is open to any youth in Georgetown that are in that age bracket, not just those enrolled at the public schools.

The GYCC is exploring additional programming for throughout the year, and certain events may be opened to different age groups, depending upon the needs of the program itself.

Decisions regarding what types of programs are offered at the GYCC will rely upon the young people who are attending the center.  The GYCC will have a youth-led council that will determine what sorts of events will draw the widest attendance, focusing on those that reinforce the vision and mission of the Center.

Category: Logistics

Finances

Funding for the 2019-2020 year will come from a mix of sources.

  • Georgetown has received a $30,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to get the Georgetown Youth Community Center off the ground.
  • The Friends of the Georgetown Youth Community Center has been fundraising both within Georgetown and beyond to help finance programming at the GYCC.
  • During the Fall Town Meeting, the GYCC is requesting the town of Georgetown to transfer $45,000 out of free cash to finance the first year of operations.
Category: Finances

In short, yes.  The Georgetown Youth Community Center was designed with the Georgetown Senior Center as its inspiration.  In the same way as the Senior Center relies upon funding from the Town of Georgetown to pay for its staff and general operations, the GYCC will similarly rely upon funding from the town.

In order to cover the costs of programming and special events, the Friends of the GYCC has been established to fundraise on behalf of the Youth Center.  As town policy strongly discourages paying for salaries through revolving accounts, funds provided from the GYCC are designed to cover programming costs and not costs associated with salaries or overhead.

In FY20, the GYCC is receiving a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for $30,000, has received a commitment for funding from the Friends of the GYCC for $15,000, and has requested a total of $45,000 from the Town of Georgetown.

In FY21, the GYCC will seek to receive additional funding from the Commonwealth to defray the costs of continuing operations.  If Georgetown is awarded a step-down grant of $15,000, the GYCC will request funding of approximately $30,000 during the normal budgeting process.

Finally, in FY22, the GYCC anticipates receiving no further funding from the Commonwealth.  Assuming the program is successful, the total investment from the Town of Georgetown is expected to be approximately $70,000.

Category: Finances

In researching Youth Centers in surrounding towns, it was discovered that professional oversight is critical to the success of the program.  Professional staff will primarily be tasked with developing compelling programming for youth in Grades 6-10 living in Georgetown.

The potential for programming has no limits!  After several meetings with young people in Georgetown, we have compiled a list of ideas that are under consideration.  Listening to these youth revealed that sports is not the answer for everyone – some of our youth have been priced out, have to work, are not interested in team sports, or simply are not interested in the formal athletics program available through the public schools.

While fundamentally providing our young people with a safe and creative space to go after school, the Youth Center will provide a dynamic environment where students can receive homework help, start up a pickup basketball, kickball or soccer game, relax in the game room, explore their creative side in the Maker Space, among countless other opportunities.  The programming available in the Youth Center will depend upon the wants and needs of our young people, always with an eye on budget.

Category: Finances

The group that has been spearheading the effort to bring the Georgetown Youth Community Center to Georgetown initially asked the Board of Selectman to consider supporting the opening of the Youth Center with a $15,000 transfer.

As conversations proceeded, two issues arose:

  1. There is uncertainty as to when the $30,000 grant will actually arrive from the State House.  In order to be able to open the Youth Center in the Fall and continue the momentum that has been developing since the spring, there was concern that there would not be enough available money in the short term to fund salaries.  The increased transfer is designed to serve as a bridge between now and when State monies arrive.
  2. When Georgetown asked our legislators to consider supporting the Youth Center, there was the sense that Georgetown would work to match the contribution coming from Boston.  As a result, the Board of Selectman voted to support a transfer in the amount of $45,000 to ensure our obligations were met.

The increase in the transfer does not change the budget or expectations of the GYCC budget.  Funds remaining at the end of the Fiscal Year (June 30, 2020) can be transferred back to the town’s general fund for future use in the various departments of town government.

Category: Finances

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