May 13, 2007

ISSUE: -- Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold sliced nearly $3.2 million in funding to local nonprofit agencies - including the Light House Shelter in Annapolis, Hospice of the Chesapeake, Partners in Care and Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, in the fiscal 2008 budget he released May 1.

In his budget address, he said the county's grant program has ballooned 123 percent in the past four years to $5 million.

"In many instances, these grants had become political handouts," he said.

Leopold, whose budget theme was fiscal responsibility, later said that he's seeking more oversight of the money by putting some of it under the umbrella of county departments. He also said that local legislators' failure to support his proposal to tax rental cars cost the county $5 million and forced him to make some of the cuts.

Supporters of the agencies and charities have criticized Leopold, however, saying these cuts might force them to drastically scale back services or even shut their doors.

Worthy nonprofits face finite funds

It is my view that not one of the county's nonprofits is without merit, and the term "political handout" does not refer to the diligent volunteer recipients of taxpayer dollars, but to the political process used to determine the beneficiaries of the grants.

Unfortunately, while the grant program needs are infinite, resources are finite, and not all worthy causes can or should be supported by taxpayers.

Analogously, The Sun and other news journals have criticized the legislative scholarship program, which enables politicians to hand out scholarship awards. The editorials that have called this program a political slush fund are not meant to demean the scholarship recipients themselves, but the political process that enables politicians to benefit from the gratitude of families receiving scholarship assistance.

The budgetary process is a collaborative one between the county executive and the Council, and I look forward to working with members of the Council to reach consensus on grant funding and other budgetary matters.

John R. Leopold Pasadena

The writer is Anne Arundel's county executive.

Cutbacks will hurt programs that work

As legal guardian of my disabled sister, Mary, and a former employee of Hospice of the Chesapeake, I am absolutely livid with his grant cuts and his plan to put "some of them under the umbrella of county departments."

Great! We'll "fix" something that works by having them managed by a bureaucracy that doesn't!

Mary, 47, has been blessedly employed by Opportunity Builders since graduating from Marley Glen School. Its care and services have enabled me to be a gainfully employed, taxpaying citizen of Anne Arundel County. I'm a Republican who adamantly believes he should be ashamed!

Doris M. Schneider Ferndale

Life of the county will only suffer

An open letter to County Executive John R. Leopold:

We are writing out of concern for your proposed cuts in the county budget - many of which are going to impact social services and the future of arts funding in the county in a very negative way.

We are supporters of the arts community as well as the social programs which are part of the outreach of St. Anne's Episcopal Church, of which we are members.

It is coincidental that our son, J. Ernest Green, is the music director of the Annapolis Chorale, a group of some 200-plus dedicated participants serving a performance schedule reaching thousands of attendees, and offering musical programming which touches the lives of many more. In addition, he is also the music director of St. Anne's, where again the support for numerous social programs emanates.

We fail to see how destroying the cultural opportunities and the social services will improve our lifestyle. It is impossible to read the newspapers, or watch the television to think these things are not necessary.

Our schools are challenged beyond understanding in their effort to reach the kinder, and gentler side of the students. How does taking away the arts and social services improve their understanding of what is expected of them? How does the fragile community of our city deal with the reduction in their opportunities for assistance? How does destroying the Light House Shelter support improve anything?

We were supportive of your election, and now find that we are not in agreement with the direction your term of office appears to be taking. Whereas, we believe in fiscal responsibility, we also recognize that to have improved quality of life, there is a cost to that responsibility.

Please reconsider your recommendations and work to improve that which is here and which makes Anne Arundel County a nice place to live.

Ernest and Rachel E. Green Annapolis

Agencies must learn to live within means

Cuts are needed on all government levels for several reasons, including so taxpayers don't have to pay more taxes and so money can go elsewhere, such as school, roads, fire/police, etc.

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