AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill Officials Urged Not to Cut Funding for Youths

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Creative Preschool Head Teacher Vicky Turco

Restoring funding for youth programs was the thrust of comments made last week during a public hearing on the city manager’s proposed 2013 budget for Peekskill.

Parents, teachers and youngsters filled the first few rows in the chambers at City Hall to urge the Common Council to continue the Parks and Recreation Department-operated Creative Preschool in Depew Park, which has been in existence for 29 years but was referred to by several speakers as Peekskill’s “best kept secret.”

“Creative Preschool is unlike any other preschool in Westchester County. It’s a jewel of Peekskill,” said Vicky Turco, the preschool’s head teacher, who noted 464 children have graduated from the program over the years.

Peter and Sandra Sarsen, who have enrolled their two children in the preschool, said Creative Preschool offers an affordable alternative for parents.

“It’s a fun, spirited place for my children to learn,” Sandra Sarsen said. “The teachers put their heart and soul into the program.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Kiley Center, which provides older city youth with many activities, including a well attended canteen, was mentioned repeatedly since City Manager Brian Havranek has proposed eliminating two recreation administrators and other staff at the center. Havranek has also penciled in cutting the Kiley sports program budget from $269,021 to $22,493.

“Closing the Kiley Center will set the city back 20 years,” said activist Darrell Davis, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Kiley Center. “More than 300 kids will be hurt. You’re being ruthless to the community. We want the same staff rehired. We don’t want you to replace them with your political lackeys.”

Mayor Mary Foster reiterated the Common Council has no intention of closing the Kiley Center.

“We very much care about the programs for the kids,” she said.

The Common Council plans to present its revised budget on November 26 and likely approve it on November 29. Havranek’s $51.49 million budget would raise taxes for most property owners by 6% and lay-off 24 full-time employees.

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