After more than a year in the works, a plan giving Lawrence teens more summer job opportunities could be ready for next year's city budget.
The proposal will ask the city for up to $100,000 to help public agencies and private businesses provide full-time jobs for about 50 Lawrence teens next summer, said Shirley Martin-Smith, one of the plan's organizers.
The city's only formal youth employment program currently has 65 applicants awaiting jobs.
"This is not just a private-sector problem," said Martin-Smith, former mayor and president of ADIA/Martin-Smith Personnel Services. "This is a public-private-sector problem, and I would hope the city commission would see it that way."
Commissioners didn't necessarily agree last year, while Martin-Smith was still a commissioner. They rejected a $240,000 proposal from the Ecumenical Fellowship Inc. to finance 100 summer jobs for youths, supervised by college students.
The latest proposal should be ready next week, Martin-Smith said. Commissioners need time to consider the request before deciding on the 1994 city budget, the basic framework of which will be decided during a study session beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The entire project budget probably would include city matches to private funds, Martin-Smith said. For example, if a business agreed to pay a qualified teen-ager for 20 hours of work each week at $4.25 an hour, the city might contribute another 20 hours in wages.
A similar program this summer in Ottawa produced 59 new jobs for teens, with the city picking up half the tab.
"It's not just money we need from the city," Martin-Smith said. "It's a matter of educating people in the community to understand the need."
Commissioner Bob Schulte said he was interested in providing jobs for low- to middle-income teens, but hadn't heard much about the proposal since last year's budget discussions.
"If they're not pushing it -- if the people who initiated it have abandoned the idea -- then the city probably isn't going to pursue it on its own," Schulte said. "There's always a need for more jobs, but it's not always the city's responsibility to do that. There's only so much the city can do."
The city already employs more than 100 teens each summer as lifeguards, and game referees and in other jobs in the parks and recreation department.
City Manager Mike Wildgen's recommended budget, to be forwarded to commissioners today, contains no money for a separate youth employment program, said Rod Bremby, assistant city manager.
Members of the public will have at least one hearing, Aug. 10, to comment on the proposed budget before it's approved by the commission.
"If the citizens of Lawrence feel this is how we should be spending our money, by investing in our youth, then I want them to come in and let us know," Commissioner Jo Andersen said.
The work already has started for the Rev. William Dulin, who, as fellowship president, made the unsuccessful pitch for a program last year.
Youths aged 14 to 19 need jobs beyond flipping hamburgers, he said. Starting them on the road to success today could lead to fewer problems in law enforcement tomorrow.
"We haven't given up," Dulin said. "Maybe it didn't work the first time, but there's still some things in the works."