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CSAFE finds funding road a tough go

February 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A local group's efforts to garner money to conduct its after-school program at four Hagerstown schools last year were successful, but a short-term "Band-Aid," Washington County Commissioner Jim Kercheval said.

The price of that Band-Aid this year could reach $100,000.

Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of CSAFE - Cooperative Supervision and Focused Enforcement - said CSAFE will receive a maximum base funding of $120,396 from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention this year for after-school learning programs, which require at least $206,000 in funding. She said the grant application for the funding, which is for the fiscal year starting July 1, is due to the office in March.

Last year, the state cut funding by more than half from the $260,000 allocated to CSAFE for the programs in each of the five previous years, she said.

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CSAFE made up last year's shortfall largely with funding from the Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, Brooks said. However, she said despite her original understanding that money would be available again this year, the community partnership funding, provided through a grant, will not come in.

"We thought it would be renewable for one more year," Brooks said.

Community Partnership Director Stephanie Stone said no money for after-school programs is available through the Youth Strategies Consolidated Grant this year. She said the partnership was able to give $40,000 to CSAFE last year because of that grant.

She said the partnership is hoping to find a different grant this year that can help CSAFE.

Brooks said the after-school program may be in jeopardy if the yet-to-be determined shortfall is not raised by August.

"We have to find the funding somewhere," Brooks said. "If we don't find the funding, the programs won't go on. It'll be a disappointment to the students and to me."

The programs are held at Winter Street, Bester, Eastern and Fountaindale elementary schools. There are 20 to 25 fourth- and fifth-graders enrolled at each location, Brooks said.

Kercheval, the county liaison to CSAFE, said the county gave $45,000 to CSAFE for its after-school programs last year as a short-term "Band-Aid," not a long-term cure.

"They basically were getting flat funding, leaving them about $100,000 short," Kercheval said. "The county put in money last year to help fill the gap, hoping that funding could have been secured this year."

He said the county has not yet discussed funding for this year, but he expects it to be "another tight budget year."

Kercheval said it is important to continue the programs because of the dramatic academic and social improvement of the students.

"You have these kids who start through the program early and do well for several years," Kercheval said. "You'd hate to see that plug being pulled."

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