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Towns slash charity money

June 15, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

As local governments tighten their belts in tough economic times, some in Washington County are cutting back on their donations to charity.

In recent years, Hancock has set aside $500 to $1,000 for unexpected charitable requests, among other things, Town Manager Larry Logan said.

That discretionary fund has been eliminated in the proposed 2004 budget.

"It's a very tight budget," Logan said.

Funkstown earmarked $1,000 a year this year to help area nonprofit organizations with various causes but plans to trim that back to $550 for the coming year, Town Clerk Brenda Hayne said.

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The town has also stopped the practice of donating to individuals because it started getting more requests than it could handle, Funkstown Mayor Robert L. Kline said.

"If it's an organization, we try to help them," he said.

Most of the financial pain local governments in Maryland are feeling is from the effects of state budget cuts. Maryland reduced the amount of money it gives municipal and county governments toward highway maintenance.

State officials have warned that further cuts are coming, which will force local governments to slash even more from their budgets.

Local charities are seeing a drop in donations across-the-board, not just through government grants, said James Taylor, executive director of the United Way of Washington County.

"They're getting pinched from just about every funding source," Taylor said. "At some point, those cuts will affect the level of services."

Although the municipalities are cutting discretionary donations, most aren't planning to reduce grants to fire and rescue companies.

Some town governments are preserving all grants to nonprofit organizations, using money they have held in reserve.

Boonsboro, which gives away money to local charities on request nearly every month, is one such town.

"Times are tough, but there's still people and groups that are in need," said Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr. "We're not going to change our policy. If they're in need we're going to do what we can to help them."

Hagerstown is also holding steady on charitable donations, budgeting about $350,000 in 2004, according to city budget documents.

Sharpsburg's Mayor and Town Council probably will increase its contributions to the organizers of the annual parade and Heritage Days Festival. The town's proposed 2004 budget includes an extra $2,000 for the event.

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