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Program funding for youth questioned

Who should fund West Seneca's youth counseling program?

Town resident Karen Lucachik, speaking at a recent Town Board meeting, said she did not question the program's merits, but wondered why the town continued to fund peer counseling, which allows high school students to give sixth-graders advice about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

"This is more for the school than for the town," she said. "If it's such a wonderful program, why doesn't the school take care of it all? We have a whole town to run for everyone. I don't want the taxpayers to have to pay for it."

West Seneca Supervisor Wallace C. Piotrowski said that the program has existed for 10 years and has always been funded by the town and the school, and that the town contributes about $73,000 per year to fund supplies and the salaries of two staff members.

The 2010 adopted budget allocated $69,806 for the staff salaries, and $4,000 for supplies and other costs. The salaries totaled $64,921 in 2009, according to the town's Web site.

Brian L. Schulz, treasurer of the West Seneca Central School District, said the district contributes about $12,000 of its total $106.1 million budget to the program.

"It's a joint effort," Piotrowski said. "There's a reinforcement every year for our students to not use drugs, cigarettes and inhalants. It's a constant reinforcement from the town, from the parents. It's tough to quantify that."

After Lucachik spoke, West Seneca West senior Kaitlyn Dickey defended the program, saying it has changed her life for the better and questioning why the program has been doubted by some town residents over the past few months.

"It's aggravating to hear [this] about these programs," she said. "I sat in the classroom and I cried because I'm going to miss it so much. This is getting ridiculous. It doesn't make sense to me."

Dickey said the group also counsels middle schoolers on the transition from middle school to high school, filling them in on social pressures, dress codes and other things she and her friends wish they knew when they were younger.

For now, though, Piotrowski said the town plans to continue to help fund the program.

"It's a positive impact," he said. "For the cost of the program, it's not a huge [expense]."

e-mail: cspecht@buffnews.com

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