Archive for Monday, August 11, 2008

Social service leaders lobby city commission to reconsider budget allocations

Social Service leaders gather to urge City Commissioners to reconsider budget cuts to several agencies that provide drug and alcohol counseling.

August 11, 2008


Social service leaders gathered Monday afternoon to urge city commissioners to reconsider 2009 budget cuts for agencies that provide drug and alcohol counseling.

Leaders from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, DCCCA, Headquarters Counseling, the Lawrence Community Shelter and others held a news conference at City Hall to protest how the City Commission plans to spend money generated by alcohol taxes charged in Lawrence.

Commissioners for the second consecutive year are using $250,000 in alcohol taxes to fund three school resource officers who police Lawrence junior high and high schools.

The funding for the police department program, however, has come at the expense of several traditional social service and counseling programs that have long relied on the alcohol tax money.

Monday's event brought a call from Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, for the city to follow the funding recommendations from its Special Alcohol Advisory Board, which recommended the police program receive $50,000. Davis said he believes the shift to use large amounts of the alcohol taxes for police funding is inconsistent with what the Legislature had intended when it created the tax.

"I just don't think I can overemphasize the importance of many of these programs and the role they have played in the lives of children and adults in this community," Davis said.

The city's recommended budget includes significant reductions to the advisory board's recommendations for three social service programs. They are:

¢ A $50,000 reduction for Bert Nash's WRAP program, which provides mental health counseling in Lawrence schools. Under the proposed budget, the program will not receive any city funding. The program over the years has been cut from 20 counselors to eight. It was hoped the city funding would be used to begin increasing the number of counselors, said Charlie Kuszmaul, WRAP's program coordinator.

¢ A $39,000 reduction to DCCCA's outpatient counseling program. Jen Brinkerhoff, director of prevention for DCCCA, said that reduction likely will cause the organization to eliminate one counselor position.

¢ A $13,000 reduction for the Lawrence Community Shelter. Director Loring Henderson said the reduction means he would not be able to increase the amount of drug and alcohol counseling provided at the center.

City commissioners did not attend the Monday news conference but previously have said they believe using alcohol tax money to fund a portion of the school resource officer program is appropriate. Commissioners have said that they believe the police program helps prevent drug and alcohol abuse by students. The alcohol taxes provide funding for three of the six school resource officers. The remaining three are funded from general tax dollars.

Commissioners also have said they hope the Lawrence school district will be able to provide additional funding for Bert Nash after voters in the school district approved in April an increase in the district's local option budget.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall to finalize the 2009 budget.


jasb71 9 years, 9 months ago

xd4o You must not have any children and you must have been living under a rock for some time. Resource officers are needed at the schools to help prevent violence and keep children safe. I know one at my child's school even saved a student from choking.

Jeremy Lichtenauer 9 years, 9 months ago

I support not just cuts to these programs, but elimination of any and all city funding. The city needs to concentrate on core services and get out of the social support business all together.And another thing...If parents would quit being their children's "friends" and start being parents, we wouldn't have a need for SRO's. The school district needs to be paying the salaries of SRO's, not the city!

considerwell 9 years, 9 months ago

The way this tax is set up, the City gets 1/3 allocated to the general fund already (which can be used for police officers), 1/3 allocated to parks and rec programs, and 1/3 allocated to alcohol and drug prevention/early intervention programs. It is this last third for which the City developed the advisory board process so that the investment of this tax money is responsive to the community's problems and needs. The Board has taken its job seriously, requiring programs to submit proposals and show their data and outcomes in relation to community priorities before making the funding list. Citizens are aware of the problems drug and alcohol abuse cost our community economically and socially. Most people would agree that the three-prong approach the City has historically taken is a wise investment in our community, because research shows any one single approach is inadequate. We know that police presence alone is not enough. Pro-social activities (through Parks & Rec) are not enough. Education and early intervention are not enough. It takes a sustained investment and connection among all three approaches to maintain a healthy, viable community with a strong workforce where business and families thrive.The original structure and intent for the City's alcohol tax, along with the provision for an advisory board, is a reflection of citizen participation and the democratic process at its best. Raiding the fund would be extremely short-sighted politically, economically, and socially, and something the community would remember of its commissioners at election time.

jafs 9 years, 9 months ago

It is always surprising to me that people would rather pay for punishing people after the fact than preventing some of the tragedies we see.If we stop funding preventive programs, we will have to spend more dealing with more problems later.I, for one, would rather see if we can help prevent young people from heading down the wrong road than write them off.

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure none of you liberal swags want any cop busting your drug dealing scum bag of a kid that you raised to be just like you. Whining about policing the schools for the bad ones is better than the county or state paying for their treatment and jail sentence later in life, after that is they've gotten 7 kids by 5 different women and owe back child support. Then on the other hand, who cares if your kid becomes a druggie and street bum. I'd like to see them still on your couch at 40, eating you out of house and home and sucking up your SS check. DECCCA already has 475 employees to care for the losser you have raised, paid for by the DG County tax payers. We should cut their budget by $39,000 per month !

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