S. Lake public agencies suffer cutbacks | NevadaAppeal.com

S. Lake public agencies suffer cutbacks

Jo Rafferty

It’s happening all over in California. Federally funded agencies that have their money distributed by the state are experiencing cutbacks

South Lake Tahoe agencies undergoing forced reductions in services are having to dig up money from sources other than the state while they wait to see if the legislature approves Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $99.1 billion budget.

The outlook is not good, since the governor’s plan would take another $1.3 billion from cities and counties – cuts that are likely to hit social service programs hardest.

At the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, funding for temporary housing for domestic violence victims has been cut $61,000 since October.

“The funding was reduced by about half,” said Leanne Wagoner, center operations manager.

Along with the funding cuts comes a reduction in shelter services, forcing many women to return to violent homes, center officials said.

It is the center’s policy to allow women and children to stay in the emergency shelter for up to two months. The funding loss will reduce the number of time women can live in the shelter, officials said.

The center is attempting to make up for its loss, including an annual membership drive. Funds generated by increased membership will help maintain high standards long established by the Women’s Center, Wagoner said.

“We’re working on trying to find grants through private foundations, do more fund-raisers, and make cutbacks wherever we can, hoping to make it a little better,” said Wagoner. “We’re hoping to be able to make it through without too much trouble.”

She said community support has so far saved the center from closing.

The South Lake Tahoe Family Resources Center is looking at a $60,000 decrease in June.

“We’ll be losing our counseling services,” said Delicia Spees, executive director. “There’s no money out there. We’re just waiting for the state budget, to see what Arnold will do. We just have to keep our fingers crossed.”

At Tahoe Youth and Family Services, executive director Nichole Loftis said funding for drug and alcohol treatment from the county has been reduced by more than half.

“That money has been dramatically cut,” said Loftis. “Three years ago, we were getting $85,000; now it’s at only $39,000.”

Over the past three years, counseling positions have been reduced from eight full-time counselors to four plus a half-time counselor, according to Loftis.

Recently, she applied for two state grants, but found out they had been eliminated. But she said her biggest worry is that the city is no longer providing funding that has helped pay for the agency’s 20 percent match it has to provide to receive an annual federal grant.

The Sierra Recovery Center, an alcohol and drug treatment center, has no more residential treatment facilities in California. Because it is also licensed in Nevada, the center has been able to keep 13 beds out of 33 available.

“This year, all alcohol and drug treatment centers have suffered because the counties have had huge cuts,” said Betsy Fedor, executive director.

With the uncertainty of whether or not Schwarzenegger’s $15 billion bond issue will pass in March and with the state budget sitting in legislative limbo, Fedor fears the worst.

“I’m expecting even more cuts,” she said, pointing out that 19 percent of nonprofit alcohol and drug agencies have closed since 1999. “I’m concerned we’re being pushed in that direction.”

– The Associated Press

contributed to this story.