Robey shifts $250,000 to help poor, elderly

Executive amends fiscal '07 budget plan


Worried about the combined effects of rising costs for rent, gasoline and electricity, Howard County Executive James N. Robey is amending his fiscal 2007 budget to shift $250,000 from snow removal and contingency funds to help poor families and fixed-income seniors.

"The steep rise in fuel costs, compounded by the lack of a solution to the impending utility rate hike, is threatening an already overburdened human services network," Robey said at a news conference yesterday.

Rents in Columbia average $1,288 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, and a family needs $3,000 in cash to get into an apartment, county officials said. This year, the county's Community Action Council ran out of funds for eviction prevention.

"Our greatest fear is that the projected rise in utility costs will force many individuals on fixed incomes to make difficult and perhaps life-threatening decisions," said Susan Rosenbaum, director of the county's Department of Citizen Services.

The County Council is to vote tomorrow on the budget that takes effect July 1. A majority, the three Democratic members, approves of the shift, several said yesterday at Robey's news conference, which was held at the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, a privately run homeless shelter in Columbia.

Republican Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who represents the western county, said he is opposed to taking money from snow-removal and contingency funds before the budget year begins.

"It's a little early to do that," he said.

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