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Cut the charities? No!

March 13, 2003

Will Washington County balance its budget on the backs of local non-profit organizations? It will if Washington County Commissioner John Munson has his way. If the county board follows his lead, it will prove that this group of commissioners is not only heartless but clueless as well.

This cut would come on top of 3 percent cuts imposed on those groups last year, but it's a possibility the idea caught Munson's fancy because the budget shortfall is $5.2 million and 17 charities are due to get $5.58 million this year.

All of them should be cut, Munson said, adding that he believes that many people don't want to see their tax dollars go to such groups. It's forced giving, Munson said, which many object to.

Munson's argument appeals to those citizens who cynically believe that every charitable cause is a scam and to all those who feel that they shouldn't have to share society's burdens, because, well, someone else will do that, won't they?

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One of the agencies cut last year was Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, which helps victims of domestic violence. If some of those victims aren't helped, doesn't it make sense that the county's law-enforcement and court costs will increase, as the justice system is forced to deal with more abuse?

Another agency cut last year was Memorial Recreation Center, which provides educational and recreational services in an area the state identified as one of the most crime-plagued in Hagerstown. Is the county really so poor it must abandon potential victims of crime?

Other agencies cut last year were the Museum of Fine Arts and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, which are featured in every economic-development brochure. What will it say to the companies Washington County is asking to bring jobs here if government declares those amenities are unaffordable?

There are other ways to balance this budget besides cutting charities. To discover them, we suggest Munson do as Hagerstown Councilman Kristin Aleshire did last year, and spend several days combing through the budget book. After all, that's why the taxpayers give him $30,000 a year.

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