Parents of children enrolled in YouthCity are nervous about Janet Wolf's resignation as Salt Lake City's director of youth and family services and the city's plans to eliminate the position and what that means to the popular youth program.
"I had hoped that everything would remain untouched," said Ashantai Yungai, a father of two boys, 11 and 13, who attend YouthCity.
"It worries me that (Wolf's) position has been cut," echoed Christine Paongo, a single mother of four children. "I'm hopeful (that YouthCity staff) can maintain the program. They need to keep YouthCity."
Wolf, who resigned earlier this month to pursue other interests, said her goals of establishing constructive after-school, summer and employment programs for kids have been reached.
"I feel like my job is done," she said. "I feel like we've done it well."
She also did the Salt Lake City Council a favor. Faced with a budget deficit created by the rising cost of fuel, the council needed to trim about $450,000 to balance expected revenues with expenditures for fiscal year 2008-09.
Mayor Ralph Becker's office and the City Council already were considering administrative cutbacks in the division of youth and family services. Wolf's decision to resign made the decision much easier.
"It's always easier to cut a position that either is not filled or will soon be vacated," said Carlton Christensen, City Council vice chairman.
Christensen said he's "hopeful and optimistic" that youth programs will not be negatively affected by the administrative change.
The mayor's proposed budget called for administration of programs at the Sorensen Multicultural Center and the recently opened Sorensen Unity Center to be handled by the division of housing and neighborhood development rather than youth and family services.
That move created some room for administrative trimming in the division of family services, which oversees YouthCity, said David Everitt, Becker's chief of staff.
"There have been no changes to YouthCity itself," Everitt said, noting that employees who work with the kids, as well as funding for the programs, remain intact in the proposed budget.
However, the city will miss the experience and knowledge Wolf brought to the position, Everitt said. Wolf had headed the YouthCity program since its inception in January 2000.
"It's always a loss when you have that kind of institutional memory leaving a program," he said.
Wolf said she believes YouthCity will continue to be successful because of a talented staff working with the youth and the expressed commitment to the program by Becker and the City Council.
That said, parents' concerns about the future of the program are understandable, she said.
"Without a director, it's going to have some challenges," Wolf said. "I hope that (parents) who are concerned will continue to be vocal about their needs and desires."The City Council is expected to approve the budget tonight.
E-mail: [email protected]