Nonprofits weigh cuts, higher dues Groups react to proposed decreases in county funding

'It's devastating'

Services for disabled would be hard hit by budget action

March 10, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Proposed cuts in county spending have Carroll's nonprofit groups looking at shuffling jobs and duties, curtailing transportation and other services, and, in some cases, raising membership dues and other fees.

In one of the worst-case scenarios, the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center in Westminster, faced with the loss of its county allocation of $271,690, would eliminate counseling for sexually abused children and their families.

"It's devastating," said Sandy L. Rappeport, director of the Carroll County District of Family and Children Services of Central Maryland. "That wipes out our whole sexual abuse treatment program."

These are pieces of the budget puzzle that have emerged since Carroll officials unveiled proposals to trim $5 million from the county spending plan for fiscal 1997, which begins July 1. Sluggish property and income tax revenues and fewer state dollars prompted the action.

The proposed cuts touch almost all county-related services, from planning and zoning to snow removal and public safety. As many as 103 county and county-funded jobs in nonprofit groups could be eliminated, mostly through attrition.

The budget ax would hit hardest the nonprofit groups that provide services to the economically and developmentally disadvantaged in Carroll. The services include everything from transportation and emergency housing to job training, counseling and education.

Nearly $1 million would be trimmed from the county's Citizens Services Department and related nonprofit agencies. Thirty-two jobs -- nearly all of them in the nonprofit sector -- face elimination.

County funding would be eliminated for Rape Crisis, Target Inc., the ARC of Carroll County and Change Inc. County money for Carroll Transit, Housing and Community Development, Junction and Volunteer Services would decrease dramatically.

"We're concerned not only about our agency but other agencies that serve people with disabilities," said Don Rowe, director of Summer Enterprises, the vocational training program of the ARC of Carroll County.

"We're taking people off public assistance and providing them with a means to be productive and to be taxpayers," he said. "We think it's a win-win situation for them and for the government and for the community."

The ARC, which provides alternative living and other programs for its clients and until 1993 was known as the Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens, would lose its entire county allocation under the cost-cutting proposals. That $25,145 represents 1 1/2 jobs, but Mr. Rowe said he was unsure whether the positions would be eliminated.

"We're right in the middle of the budget process," he said. "I guess we either stretch ourselves thinner and have other people pick up those [duties] or just have deficit spending. It's hard to operate under these conditions."

Doing business differently

Target Inc., a residential, vocational and recreational program for the developmentally disabled, would lose its entire county allocation of $19,865 -- equal to one position.

"We'll have to do business a little differently," George Andrews, Target's director of vocational services, said, noting there are no plans to cut the position. "We may have to reduce hours. We're putting a plan together now. We might have to look at minimum enrollment for job training classes.

"If someone calls us today, we have them start job training Monday. Now, we may not start them until we have two more people," he said.

Carroll Transit System, which provides transportation for 6,500 to 7,000 disabled, elderly and other residents a month, would lose $80,150, or 58 percent of its county funding. The result likely would mean fewer vans on the road and fewer hours of operation.

"There are going to be drastic reductions in the amount of hours we provide service," said James Mathis, executive director. "That means we won't be in operation at the hour of the morning many of our people go to work and at the hour of the afternoon they come home from work.

"These are people that don't have transportation," he said. "What this does is affect their independence. You can't be independent if you don't have the means to be independent and a major piece of that is transportation."

'Most vulnerable citizens'

Wiping out the budget for the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center would mean the loss of seven counseling jobs, Ms. Rappeport said. About 100 children who now receive intensive counseling would be affected by the move.

"These to me are our most vulnerable citizens: little kids who have been sexually abused, sometimes by parents, sometimes by relatives. They've got no one," she said. "It's a devastating experience for a child. Without help, these kids are more likely to use drugs, commit suicide, more likely to run away and have school problems.

"Some kids who are abused grow up to be offenders," she said.

Conservation, culture and recreation also would take some heavy hits in the proposed measures. County funding would be eliminated for the Carroll County Historical Society, Historic District Commission, Homestead Museum and woodland management. Funding for 4-H and home economics programs, administered by the Cooperative Extension Service, also would be cut.

"It's a plain dollars and cents problem," said Hilary Hatfield, executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council, which would lose $20,000, about 15 percent of its annual budget.

"This is something the citizens of Carroll County can change," Ms. Hatfield said. "Do we need a tax increase? It's that plain and simple. They need to make a decision about what they want."

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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