Nonprofits facing city and county cuts


WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Hagerstown and Washington County are proposing cuts to nonprofit groups that could shut down two after-school programs for at-risk youth, slash a homeownership and counseling program, and affect domestic violence services, leaders of affected organizations said.

In response to budget shortfalls, the city has proposed cutting contributions to many nonprofit organizations by about 8 percent to 10 percent, while Washington County is considering a 2 percent cut.

The Hagerstown Home Store, which assists home buyers, renters and landlords, is facing one of the largest cuts. The proposed city budget eliminates $100,000 -- the city's entire funding for the program and about half of the Home Store's budget for the coming year.

After-school programs by CSAFE, a statewide crime-prevention initiative, also would be hit. Programs for two of the four schools it serves would be canceled.


City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman's proposed $37.7 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2011 included a 25 percent funding cut for nonprofits, not including the Home Store.

Washington County is considering a $197.2 million general fund for the coming fiscal year.

The Home Store, which received $75,000 this year and asked for $100,000 next year, will look for other funding but would have to make cuts, Executive Director Sharon Disque said. Its budget for next year is $200,000.

Realtors, lenders and other Home Store supporters plan to speak at a May 11 budget public hearing, she said.

A chart shows the Home Store had 1,026 clients in 2007. The number rose 31 percent in 2008 and 24 percent last year.

CSAFE's after-school activities are aimed at children affected by learning disabilities, single-parent households, being left home alone, family violence and disruption, substance abuse and gang activity, according to coordinator Carolyn Brooks.

Traditionally, the county funded two of the four after-school program sites in Hagerstown, Brooks said. The city has proposed cutting its entire $62,000 contribution to CSAFE, which would end the other two school programs.

"I'm concerned about the young people, and where they will go and what they will be doing," Brooks said.

Already, the city council has agreed to overturn a proposed 33 percent cut to the Community Rescue Service ambulance company, from $75,000 to $50,000.

Council members were reluctant to cut CRS as it starts providing 24-hour service in the city's West End.

Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, or CASA, which has a budget of $1.2 million, could lose about $5,000 from the county and about $3,300 from the city.

For an organization trying to prevent and respond to domestic violence, every dollar is critical, Executive Director Vicki A. Sadehvandi said.

"In times like these where additional stressors are put on families already experiencing difficulties, it really tends to escalate the violence," she said.

Each year, CASA answers about 25,000 hot line calls, provides counseling to more than 2,000 clients, provides emergency shelter to almost 900 women and children, and has about 650 people go through its abuser-intervention program.

"All nonprofits play a critical role in the community ... but we're talking about a potential for lethal situations here," Sadehvandi said.

Community Action Council stands to lose about $4,500 from the county and about $900 from the city. Its full budget was almost $7 million for fiscal year 2010, Executive Director David Jordan said.

He said CAC would feel the cuts, but could live with them.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra planned ahead for a reduction from the city, Executive Director Andrew Kipe said.

"It's tough for everybody, but with some prudent planning on our part, we're sort of on pace to be OK," Kipe said.

The city has proposed cutting $2,000 to the MSO, while the county's cut would be about $284. MSO's budget was about $1.2 million this fiscal year.

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts could lose 8 percent of its city funding, or $4,000, and 2 percent of its county funding, or $3,000.

Its budget for next year is about $1.2 million, board President Thomas C. Newcomer said.

"I don't think it's a lack of willingness on their part," he said of the government funding cuts. "It's just economic reality."

A county budget public hearing is scheduled for May 4 at 7 p.m. in Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater. The city's budget public hearing is scheduled for May 11.

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said in a voice-mail message Monday that he wants the council to work through the whole budget before deciding on final nonprofit funding.

Councilman Forrest Easton said Monday he'd like a broader philosophical discussion, with the city and county, about nonprofits, so funding decisions aren't subject to anyone's whims. He doesn't think there's time to do that this year.

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