Snapshot: NY Youth Reverse Budget Cuts for Key Programs

September 17, 2013

In Orange County, New York, the process for setting the local budget for fiscal year 2013 was difficult. Like much of the country, Orange County was still struggling to recover from the recession. It was clear that some spending would have to be cut.

Deciding which programs to cut and how deeply is always difficult and politically fraught. In this case, youth development programs and schools were facing significant cuts, despite that fact that many local residents saw these as key to helping young people weather the recession and improve their futures.

YB youth advisory boardThen, the young members of the Orange County Youth Bureau’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) took action. The YAB has four youth members appointed by the County Executive who work with the 20 adults members of the county Youth Bureau on positive youth development and related local issues. These four youth spearhead projects with dozens of other young people recruited for specific efforts.

The fiscal year 2013 budget process was one of those efforts.

In February 2013, during the Orange County Youth Bureau’s annual advocacy effort in Albany, 25 young people spoke to state legislators about the negative impacts that the proposed spending cuts would have on specific youth development programs, and by extension on their lives and opportunities.

It worked. Largely as a result of this youth input, funding for these programs was restored to 2012 levels, says Colleen Monaghan, Youth Program Technician with the Orange County Youth Bureau. What’s more, two legislators provided additional small grants for specific programs the young people described as important to them.

A Small Group, but Fierce
When they are not advocating in Albany, the young people involved in the Orange County Youth Bureau YAB offer youth voice and input into the Bureau’s proposal review and annual allocations process—and do so as voting members. They conduct monitoring visits to funded programs and advocate at county and state levels for funding and policies that have a positive impact on youth and families.

The YAB’s itself has a very small budget, enough only to fund the annual County Executive Annual Awards Luncheon, which recognizes hundreds of local youth for their community improvement efforts.  This may not sound like much, but every spring this luncheon gives young people an opportunity to genuinely interact with local elected officials and school administrators.

The awards recognize young people whose “performance and perseverance might otherwise be overlooked. The young people honored are often not traditional students with effective support systems who have always done well at school,” according to Orange County Youth Board site.

The YAB’s biggest challenge:  “We have a large county, 816 square miles, consisting of rural, urban, and suburban communities.  Ensuring diverse youth representation from across the county and transportation are consistent challenges,” says Monaghan.

About the Orange County Youth Bureau’s Youth Advisory Board
The Orange County Youth Bureau’s mission is to promote positive youth development through countywide integrated planning, funding, monitoring, coordinating and developing youth and family services programs for youth aged 0-21. The Bureau– including the 4 youth members of the Youth Advisory Board—advocates for the adoption of strong legislation, regulations, policies and services that will promote healthy youth, families and communities in Orange County.

This snapshot is part of SparkAction's Youth Impact series, short profiles of youth councils and commissions that are influencing local and state policies and practices. SparkAction is producing this series in partnership with the youth-led Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To suggest an impact story, please contact Caitlin Johnson, managing editor, at