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Local groups brace for cuts

When lawmakers slashed state spending by $488 million this week, they spared public schools and prisons. But that leaves many other agencies with a larger burden to bare.

Winthrop University and other S.C. colleges are among the hardest hit.

Winthrop stands to lose nearly 15 percent of its state money, or about $3.4 million of an expected $22.9 million.

"That's what (funding) was back in the mid-90s when we had fewer students," said Winthrop spokeswoman Rebecca Masters.

It's not clear what changes Winthrop and other institutions will make. Most are waiting for the cuts to be finalized.

The S.C. House and Senate have approved the spending bill. Next, Gov. Mark Sanford will have a chance to veto portions, which could send it back to the legislature.

Here's what's at stake for some area agencies:

n York Technical College faces about a 14 percent loss, or $1.2 million of its expected $8.6 million.

That's a tough hit because York Tech started the year with 3 percent less from the state than the previous year, said college president Greg Rutherford.

But, he said, "we've been fairly conservative (with spending). We're not overextended at this point."

The college is not looking at layoffs, Rutherford said. "We're not looking at adding more employees either."

Rutherford declined to give more details.

"We just really need to get the final word on it (from the state)," he said. "It's not going to pleasant, that's for sure."

n The Catawba Community Mental Health Center, which gets roughly 50 percent of it's $10 million budget from the state, is bracing for a $450,000 cut.

"We're trying to see how much of this we can absorb," said Executive Director Paul Cornely.

The center, which serves York, Chester and Lancaster counties, has cut back on travel and instituted a hiring freeze. Cornely said he hopes those efforts and grant money will offset some of the loss.

Despite the cuts, he also hopes to extend hours.

"People rely a lot on the services we provide," Cornely said. "With the economy the way it is, people are fragile."

One way to extend hours, he said, may be to have some employees switch to a four-day week, working longer hours each day. He plans to meet early next week with clinic directors to devise a plan.

n Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill stands to lose about $52,000.

So far no programs are set to be cut, said director Janet Martini. Revenue from clients, grants and donations should be enough to keep them.

But, Martini is still poring over figures.

Like other agencies, Keystone has halted hiring and employee travel.

The agency has also put off opening a treatment center for people ages 12 to 18.

A large part of the state money would've gone to treat people who can't afford to pay, Martini said.

As York County's population has soared, so has Keystone's number of patients. The agency isn't allowed to turn away someone who can't pay.

Martini said if it becomes too costly she would likely have to reach out to foundations or local governments for help.

"I'm going to have to find more dollars from more places," she said, "and pray."

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