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Changes to Youth Bureau sought

Niagara County Manager Gregory D. Lewis should be instructed to study merging the county Youth Bureau into the Social Services Department, Legislator Renae Kimble said Friday.

Kimble, D-Niagara Falls, introduced a resolution for Tuesday's Legislature meeting, calling on Lewis to get going on "restructuring or eliminating the Youth Bureau" in response to budget cuts threatened by Gov. David A. Paterson.

Paterson has proposed cutting funding to county youth programs by 25 percent. He's also calling for the surviving youth funding to be sent to counties in the form of block grants, allowing the counties to decide how to use it, instead of Albany targeting it for certain programs.

Kimble said, "Usually when they do block grant funding, they're trying to reduce administrative overhead."

She said that means the county needs to make sure as much of its youth funding as possible goes toward preserving the department's programs.

"That's key for the quality of life in Niagara County," Kimble said.

Legislator Danny W. Sklarski, D-Town of Niagara, criticized Kimble's suggestion.

"Not only is Legislator Kimble's resolution premature, it may also be illegal," said Sklarski, chairman of the Community Services Committee.

Several years ago, the county tried to merge the Youth Bureau and the Office for the Aging into Social Services to promote efficiency and save money.

But it turned out that state regulations required the county to have a stand-alone youth bureau. Kimble said she didn't remember that episode.

Sklarski said, "These cuts the governor is proposing may not materialize."

He added that even if a merger of the Youth Bureau into Social Services were legal, he'd be against it. "In fact, if I had my druthers, I'd add to the Youth Bureau," Sklarski said.

Lewis and Youth Bureau Director Joan A. McDermott did not return calls seeking comment.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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