June 15, 2011; Source: Jamestown News | In Jamestown, N.C., serial budget cuts are taking their toll on public services. Apparently, the public library just had a budget tussle with the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. Now, the Jamestown Town Council has decided to eliminate its usual $100,000 grant to the Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA.

The Y was built in 2004 and has received Town Council funding dedicated to the debt service (annually $250,000) on the $6 million facility construction cost. That $100,000 per year commitment was a pledge that the government had made some years ago, meant to be a 20-year annual payment for the Y, whose budget is only $1.8 million. That’s a big hit on a small town Y.

Cutback strategies include raising membership dues, reexamining some of the organization’s low-cost membership fees for teens, and reducing programs. This is not a big town or a big Y. Its staffing has already been cut from 12 to seven. In a small town like Jamestown, this facility represents an essential service to young people, families, the disabled, and the elderly; there aren’t alternatives.

In fact, 41 percent of Jamestown residents belong to the Y. But the town is facing a financial balancing act, the Y’s $100,000 on one side, and other competing demands (such as a $36,000 required upgrade of radios for the Fire Department) on the other. Small potatoes? Not to the people of this community.

One of the Y’s former trustees who helped create the facility, Kerry Miller, explained as well as anyone possibly could what the budget cut means:

“We did this at the request of Town Council in the mid-1990s, and we've done everything in our ability to make it a success. We were challenged to do that and we did it. The council and mayor were looking for a community center and outreach programs as a way to extend a good atmosphere to the people. We brought this wonderful facility here, with good management, and have succeeded, despite the bad economy for the past two years. We've done everything we've ever been asked to do, and to even threaten to take that away from the community, I just can't imagine. It's just hard to understand their rationale.”

With no United Way funding and no other government funding, the Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA faces a tough road.—Rick Cohen