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White Plains Council Ponders Higher Fees

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A proposed $25 increase for the city’s summer day camp sparked a debate between council members Thursday about how burdensome additional fees for extended camp hours can be for working families.

Council member Milagros Lecuona, a Democrat, said she worried that raising the children’s day camp fee from $250 to $275 would financially strain parents who pay an additional $120 for longer camp hours because they cannot pick up their children at 3 p.m.

Lecuona’s suggestion that families paying for extended camp hours be exempt from the $25 increase for children’s day camp and the $30 hike for teen day camp didn’t resonate with other members of the all-Democratic Common Council. Mayor Thomas Roach argued that anyone who cannot afford the camp is “taken care of” by scholarships that slice the camp cost in half.

“It’s like $12 a day for two-and-a-half hours. You can’t get a babysitter for that,” Roach said of camp cost increases proposed for the first time in approximately five years.

Other potential recreation and parks fee increases slated to go into effect March 1 appeared less contentious, including raising youth tennis classes for residents from $80 to $85 and adding $1 to the cost of ice skating at Ebersole for everyone except seniors.

“We went up $1, but we are, on the average, on the low end, so we’re very competitive,” Recreation and Parks Commissioner Wayne Bass said of his research on neighboring communities’ ice rinks.

Fees for getting a new recreation ID card and renewing resident ID cards would rise $1 for children and adults, bringing the price tag of new youth cards to $7 and new adult cards to $11. The $25 fee for joining a community garden would jump to $35 under the proposed increases.

The budgetary sketch also included programs for special needs children for the first time. If passed, parents of children with special needs could drop their children off at an eight-week bowling program for $25.

The council also reviewed potential price increases for youth bureau programs , including a $27 jump in the monthly cost of the after-school connection program, a $72 hike in the cost of the bits n’ pieces tutorial camp and a $7 increase in the summer excel camp cost. Low-income families and parents living below the federal poverty level who receive scholarships for the programs will face more modest cost increases.

“We have a sizable community of working parents that really depend on the services we provide,” said Youth Bureau Executive Director Frank Williams. “We’re very compassionate at the youth bureau. We hardly ever turn anybody away regardless of economic challenges.”

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