The city of Gainesville will cut loose the Reichert House Youth Academy, its flagship youth intervention program, after more than three decades of management by the police department.
City Manager Cynthia Curry said the program will end on May 31 to coincide with the end of the school year, and the full-time employee positions will remain until Sept. 30 when the fiscal year ends. She said the city is working to internally relocate the employees for the 15 filled positions that will end.
“It has not been driven by a lack of funding,” Curry said at a city budget workshop. “It has just simply been driven by a lack of ability to, quite frankly, get past audit findings.”
The city will save $1.25 million by eliminating the Reichert House. In total, Gainesville is set to save around $2.3 million by stopping Juvenile Justice and Community Support Programs under the police department.
In a Facebook post last week, the Reichert House said 60 youths, with 70 on the waiting list, will be without services once closed.
“The Staff, children and families at Reichert House are at a loss for words,” the post said.
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) heard a presentation in February on 18 findings concerning the city of Gainesville, and five of those findings concerned oversight and transparency of the Reichert House program.
The Reichert House has served more than 2,200 students since starting in 1987. The program provides tutoring services and exists to “equip young men for life.”
Mayor Harvey Ward said the program hit a ceiling several years ago. He said the program is limited by remaining under a city department, not the financing. He said the future of the Reichert House depends on the public now.
“I really believe that there is enough community support to pick it up and not only not miss a beat but to have a stronger heartbeat,” Ward said at a media availability.
He said the city has supported the program by itself for decades with all the pieces in place for a nonprofit or organization to take over. Ward said he can imagine several ways the Reichert House might transform under new management, like a charter school, but he said the city isn’t taking the lead.
Ward said the city needs to clearly cut the program loose. Otherwise, other partners think Gainesville still has the control and the will to keep the program running.
“Well, the city doesn’t have it anymore—not only financially but from a growth, opportunity space,” Ward said. “If it’s going to become what it’s going to become, it’s going to have to do that with some other leadership.”