Hillsborough citizens speak out against after school program reductions listen07/22/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Once again, Hillsborough County officials have had to grapple with some tough budget decisions this year. The county faces a $566 million reduction from last year’s budget due to a fall in property and sales tax revenues. The proposed county budget reflects some pretty tough cuts, and not everyone’s happy about them.
Nearly 75 people signed up to speak their minds before the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, and nearly 300 attended. Many in attendance were well under five feet tall. Grownups or not, most were there to urge the commission not to eliminate a county-funded after-school program.
Meagan Cox said her after school program helped keep her out of trouble as a kid, and does the same for countless scores of at-risk youth. The budget proposal would cut after-school programs the county budget currently funds, consolidating more than 40 programs into 12. It would likely be up to nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA to take up the slack. Resident Melissa Gaultier is studying to become a teacher, and is married to a firefighter. She said another problem is that without these programs, it’ll be tougher to get kids to be physically active.
Some parents said it would be a lot tougher for them to work without the programs. Hillsborough activist Michelle Williams took it a few steps further.
County administrator Mike Merrill said he appreciates the passion, but there’s apparently some misunderstanding about his proposal.
He said while the county is planning on cutting that funding, the idea is to replace those programs with ones already-existing nonprofits would administer. It may mean some changes, but the concept behind the programs currently offered through county parks will stay in tact.
Another contentious part of the proposed budget is the plan to cut 449 county jobs, though some are already vacant. Nearly a quarter of these will be in the parks and recreation department. A public employees’ union claims this can be avoided. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 167 says the county failed to collect more than $876,000 in fees last year. Juan Basso was one of numerous green shirt-wearing county employees who urged the county not to cut jobs.
County administrator Mike Merrill said cutting jobs is never a pleasant thing.
Last night’s hearing was the second of three hearings on the proposed budget.
To comment on the proposed budget, call (813) 704-0181
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.