Proposed budget cuts may affect grants Social service groups might lose matching government funds

April 02, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Carroll County agencies and nonprofit groups that provide health, job-training and crisis services to thousands of residents stand to lose about $2 million in matching grant money next fiscal year if proposed budget cuts are adopted, county officials said.

Social service officials say that losing the grant money -- which would be a direct effect of proposed cuts in county funding -- would further erode services for poor residents, the developmentally disabled and others.

"We're real concerned about it because we get a lot of bounce out of local dollars," said Sylvia Canon, director of the Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., a private, nonprofit agency that operates programs and facilities for the county's homeless.

Ms. Canon estimated that her organization will lose nearly $1 million in matching funds from a variety of government sources if the commissioners follow through with recommendations to trim 49 percent of her agency's county funding, or $283,470 in fiscal 1997, which begins July 1.

"Most of our grants are service-directed," she said. "We work with a very vulnerable population. We're being asked to do more with less."

Sluggish property and income tax revenues have prompted the commissioners to consider slashing $5 million from the county's budget next fiscal year or to raise additional money. The commissioners recently completed a marathon two-week series of budget reviews to determine the impact of the proposed cuts.

The commissioners are wrestling with budget numbers and working to draft a spending plan for fiscal 1997. They are expected to complete a budget by Thursday and to release it to the public next week.

Programs such as those provided by Ms. Canon's group, parks and recreation programs and the county's library system would be hardest hit by cuts.

Carroll officials have estimated that 103 county and county-funded jobs at nonprofit groups would be eliminated under the plan.

Other agencies that stand to lose grant money because of proposed cuts include the Carroll County Job Training Partnership Administration, which offers remedial education and job training for youths and others.

That group will lose $111,000 in matching grants from United Way and the state's Project Independence and Maryland's Tomorrow programs if the commissioners eliminate $153,900 in county funding next fiscal year. The organization receives money from other sources, but county officials were uncertain of the impact.

Although many residents recommended during the recent budget hearings that the county raise taxes to support programs, the commissioners have not publicly supported such an action.

"It would be unfortunate to lose that much money," Commissioner Richard T. Yates said about the grants. "We either have to balance the budget by cutting or raise taxes. We have to balance the budget one way or another. We heard a pretty strong message not to raise taxes."

Although aware of how the budget cuts would affect grants to agencies, county officials said they had not realized the overall impact before the hearings.

"We knew for each individual agency what the cuts were, but we had not aggregated the numbers," said Steven Powell, director of the county's Management and Budget Department.

Ms. Canon said county funding primes the pump for other sources of funding. As a result, a cutback in county funding could have a greater impact than the county numbers might suggest.

"In the funding game, the hard part is getting the first buck on the table," Ms. Canon said. "Everyone wants to put theirs on the table last. That's the real impact of losing those county dollars."

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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