Nine sign up to testify at first budget hearing

May 10, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

An article in the May 10 Anne Arundel County edition incorrectly reported that county funding to the Harundale Youth & Family Service Center Inc. would be cut. In fact, the county's $78,310 contribution will remain the same. A state grant, which had been allocated to the agency through the county, will now go directly to the agency.

The Sun regrets the error.

If the size of the crowd that gathered last night at Old Mill High School to address the County Council on the proposed budget is any indication, this indeed is going to be a smooth approval process.

Only nine people signed up to testify at the first of four budget hearings scheduled for this week, and the county staff probably outnumbered the approximately 20 people who attended the hearing.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

County Executive Robert R. Neall last week presented a $711 million operating budget to the council that includes major spending increases in education and a drop of 3 cents in the property tax rate, to $2.35 per $100 of assessed value.

With the decrease in the property tax, a homeowner in Anne Arundel County outside of Annapolis, whose home is valued at $150,000, would receive a $1,317 annual tax bill, an increase of $26 because of an overall increase in assessments.

The more controversial projects that one might have expected comment on last night -- the proposal to build a jail in north county or a planned increase in fees for residential trash collection -- were not mentioned.

But a group representing the Harundale Youth & Family Service Center hoped it made an impression when it lobbied against a cut of $98,490 in its county grant. Last year, the county gave the counseling program, located in Harundale Mall, a $176,800 grant, but has proposed just $78,310 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

County officials point out that in prior years, the county provided matching funds and secured state grants for the program. This year, the county will only match part of a state grant of $98,000 that the counseling service will receive.

Glen White, a retired Glen Burnie businessman who has supported the center over the years and was present at its ribbon cutting in 1968, told the council that all the grant money went to pay counselors' salaries. A cut in grant money might mean counselors would be laid off.

"Here at the Harundale Youth Center, you're getting bargain-basement results for the prices you're paying," Mr. White said. He noted that more government funds are being devoted to building jails.

"What more and more people are coming up with is that we must attack the problem of crime at the front end," he said, adding that the youth center does this with programs to keep families together, combat substance abuse and teach parenting skills. "My biggest fear is that while we're striving to reduce costs, we'll kill the goose that laid the golden egg," Mr. White said.

Adel O'Rourke, executive director of the youth services agency, told the council that the program is effective. A recent audit by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services of 138 cases showed that two years after receiving counseling at the center, only seven youths had contact with the juvenile justice system.

Council Chairman Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, told Ms. O'Rourke that the council can only cut the budget, and any restoration of the agency's funds would have to be included in a supplemental budget that Mr. Neall could submit shortly before the budget is approved at the end of the month. He said he will encourage Mr. Neall to include more money for the program.

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