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Sleepy Hollow Discusses Morse After-School Program

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- Tensions were high Tuesday night as the Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees discussed the Morse After-School program.

The village-run program’s costs were at the heart of the discussion, with trustees arguing that the program could not continue at its current prices, which was why the program was cut from the budget.

A number of parents showed up to the discussion hoping they would be able to speak to the board, but work session rules do not allow for public comments. Upset parents and grandparents interrupted the meeting several times in an effort to make their opinions known or to ask the board to allow public comments.

Trustees and Recreation Supervisor Robin Pell also got somewhat heated when discussing the program as Pell interrupted discussions and trustees expressed frustrations about aspects of the program.

Trustee and Deputy Mayor Tom Capossela said at one point in the meeting that it was getting “too confrontational.” Capossela had asked for the after-school program to be included in the work session so that the board could look at the numbers.

“I’m here to look at the numbers and the bottom line is the $185 for Sleepy Hollow residents and the $250 for Tarrytown residents,” he said. “I think it’s up to the seven of us to decide if we want to go through with that or we don’t.”

To make the program sustainable, the village would need to increase fees to $185 for Sleepy Hollow residents and $250 for Tarrytown residents, up from the $125 it current charges per child per month.

However, Mayor Ken Wray also pointed out several issues with raising the fees: some kids drop out out of the program, some parents don’t pay the monthly fee and Tarrytown parents may pull their kids out of the program if the higher fee was implemented. He explained, this means more open spots where the program would not be able to collect revenue.

Problems arose during the meeting as Pell argued that the numbers the village provided were not the numbers she had. Pell also took issue with the fact that the village included her salary in the numbers. Wray explained that the village has to include her salary because the program takes up a certain amount of her job as recreation supervisor.

Many trustees said they didn’t see a reason to reinstate the program into the budget because it was operating at a loss. They also pointed out that the YMCA also runs an after-school program in the same building. But Pell and several parents have argued against the YMCA program, saying the village-run program was better. The village-run program also charges less per child than the YMCA does.

Trustee Bruce Campbell said he thought the village was still spending too much money, even with the elimination of the after-school program. He also noted that there were other pressures and demands that they had to deal with, such as Police Chief Gregory Camp’s wish to hire another police officer.

Restoring the program into the budget “is not something I think I’m going to be in favor of,” he said.

Furthermore, Campbell stressed the fact that the Village of Tarrytown does not contribute to the program financially, although a third of the program's children have been from Tarrytown.

If tax money is going to be risked from Sleepy Hollow, “then I want to see Tarrytown chip in too,” Campbell said.

Other trustees said they’d be willing to reinstate the program if it could be made self-sustainable. Trustee Evelyn Stupel said she had no problem with revisiting the program, but it would have to pay for itself.

“That’s all we’re asking for,” Pell said.

Pell argued on behalf of the parents, saying the kids in the program would be willing to raise money. They just wanted to see if a self-sustainable solution could be found so that the program could be reinstated, Pell said.

The board asked Pell to bring the issue up with the Parks and Recreation Committee for further discussion.

Should Sleepy Hollow reinstate the Morse After-School Program into its budget?

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