Last summer, the Amsterdam community was reeling after two teenagers were found dead in a field just outside the city limits, allegedly at the hands of two other teenagers who were charged with the ghastly killings.
In response, the city began working with the Greater Amsterdam School District and various community-based organizations to offer local youths programs and services that have been badly needed in this area.
The most visible result of this effort has been the transformation of the former Bacon school on Henrietta Boulevard into a recreation center. In its short existence, the center has hosted youth basketball games, activities for families, and other programs aimed at improving the health and wellness of Amsterdam's younger citizens.
Much of this is due to the efforts of the assistant recreation director who has been in charge of coordinating activities at the center and pursuing financial support for the activities there. In addition to the increasing what the recreation facility has to offer, she's also brought in around $25,000 to help pay for the programs, equipment and improvements to the building.
That's not a bad return for a 20-hour per week position that comes with a $10,000 salary. We can't help but wonder what would happen if the recreation assistant was working 40 hours per week.
In the 2013-14 city budget, Mayor Ann Thane wants to make the position full-time and increase the pay to $20,000. Lawmakers should approve this change.
We understand municipalities across the state are in a tight financial bind, and money is hard to come by. Most communities are making massive budget cuts and reducing services to stay afloat, while at the same time trying to avoid imposing any kind of tax increases on the people who have been taxed enough.
But officials also need to consider the future of the communities they're elected to serve. Improving the quality of life in any city is key to helping it grow. Recreational opportunities are often near the top of anyone's list when considering a move into any area.
The assistant recreation director has been worth the investment so far, and the revenue generated by her efforts have more than covered her salary. In fact, the money she's brought in has more than covered the cost of increasing the position to full time.
Amsterdam lawmakers need to look past the dollars and cents and consider the big picture. A common complaint in the city is that youths have little to do and this is often cited as a reason why the city continues to struggle with teenagers getting into trouble and committing crimes across town. Increasing the number of recreation programs for young people will go a long way to keeping them out of trouble.
It's not just an expense. It's an investment in Amsterdam's future.