Friday, August 10, 2001

Social service cuts considered

Less state money squeezes Butler

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County officials are considering slashing funds for several social-service programs that help people move from welfare to work and assist troubled youths.

        After reviewing 30 social-service programs, the Butler County Department of Job and Family Services has recommended that the county reduce or eliminate funding for six of them.

        The county directed state funds to these programs — all operated by schools or outside agencies — in the past year. But a $1.5 million cutback in state money the county has used to fund these 30 programs has forced Butler to take a hard look at which programs to continue to fund.

   • Hamilton City Schools' alternative school subsidy. The school provides an alternative to letting students who are suspended or expelled stay on the streets. The county provided $150,000 for this program in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.
   • Butler County Joint Vocational Schools' computer classes. The county allocated $160,000 for this program the past fiscal year.
   • MALACHI's Side by Side mentoring program for families making the transition from welfare to work and for adults and youths needing guidance. The county provided $240,800 the past fiscal year. MALACHI stands for Middletown—Monroe Adolescents Achieve.
   • LifeSpan's TIME (Teaching Independence through Money Management Education), a money-management program for the welfare-to-work population. The projected cost of this program for the current fiscal year is $150,000.
   • Butler County Education Services Center's HelpLine Plus, an information and referral service. The projected cost for the current fiscal year is $41,000.
   • SELF's asset-based community development program, which trains and develops low-income residents to mobilize to reclaim their community from negative elements. The projected cost for this fiscal year is $50,000. SELF stands for Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families.
        “I don't think there is one of these services that is without merit,” Bruce Jewett, Job and Family Services director, said Thursday. “But we have to make some tough decisions.”

        The commissioners have set no date for deciding what cuts will be made.

        Sharon Bogan, executive director of MALACHI, a program on the funding-cut list, said its Side by Side mentoring program is a valuable one that provides personal guidance for people in difficult situations.

        “It helps to have a mentor,” she said, “if you're getting off welfare and are juggling the demands of kids and a job and day care.”

        Dr. Cynthia Stever, LifeSpan's CEO, said the TIME program, which is also on the cut list, has helped teach basic money skills that helppeople stay off welfare.

        “We're very proud of the TIME program,” she said. “Many of these folks coming off welfare have never had a checkbook. They rely on money orders from the post office as their bank.”

        The commissioners said the county never intended to fund all these programs indefinitely.

        Commissioner Mike Fox said the county will significantly reduce its allocation for the second annual Butler County Safe Kids & Strong Families Conference, scheduled for September. The projected cost of the conference, which Mr. Foxhelped initiate, is $279,000.

        The purpose of the conference is to increase the public's awareness of children's issues and to create a forum for discussing ways to build strong families and promote safety for children.

        But Mr. Fox said he was disappointed that last year's conference didn't reach more parents and teachers.


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