$541,000 grant OK'd for 3 county agencies

Money to help groups that provide services for disabled

January 18, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners approved a one-time, $541,000 grant yesterday for three agencies that provide services for adults with developmental disabilities.

ARC, Target and Change Inc. are coping with shortfalls in their budgets this fiscal year, which began July 1. In the fall, they asked the county for $800,000 to make up the deficits, parts of which stem from reductions in state funding.

The agencies provide clients with employment opportunities, transportation and, in some cases, housing based on their ability and social skills.

"The community protects these people," said Steven D. Powell, county budget director. "Through age 21, it is the educational system. Then, care falls to these entities for the rest of their lives. No one funds at the levels of funding for those younger than 21."

County assistance was never in doubt, but officials had to settle on an amount. The commissioners took two months to reach a final figure, in part because Powell had to scrutinize the request.

"The bottom line is that we have to take care of these people and participation in these programs is growing," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said Target is having difficulty meeting its payroll and has been forced to borrow against its $75,000 line of credit.

"Now is the time to help. They are already in dire straits," she said. "We have to help them over the rough spots this year."

After reviewing the agencies' financial statements and annual fund-raising efforts and contributions, Powell shaved $246,000 from the agencies' request and recommended that the commissioners grant the remaining amount. The money will come from the county's reserve account.

The vote was unanimous, but officials called for a detailed presentation of the agencies' budgets for the 2002 fiscal year beginning July 1 and asked that those requests include a five-year plan.

"They have to come up with a financial plan for the future," Gouge said.

Dell said he is confident the agencies are planning ahead, but he wants to meet with them and discuss those plans.

"These are business people," said Dell. "They are not thinking that money falls out of the sky. They have just come onto bad times and are looking to make ends meet. I am sure they are working on something."

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier suggested the board give the agencies a loan, rather than a grant, to encourage them to draft a financial plan. But, she bowed to her colleagues' decision on the grant.

However, Frazier said she wants the agencies to analyze what they must do "to turn this situation around." All three budgets have "wiggle room," she said. She suggested the three combine their efforts to increase state funding or borrow against their capital.

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