Enquirer Herald

Public, agencies asked to weigh in on York County budget proposal

On Tuesday afternoon, children from the Blackmon Road community were hanging around A Place for Hope, the nonprofit working to bring water and sewer service to the impoverished area that sits just beyond Rock Hill’s southeastern boundary.

The children, just let out of school, played basketball, worked on puzzles, drew on a chalkboard and played outside.

As summer approaches, Keon Love, the youth coordinator at A Place for Hope, looks forward to taking the neighborhood children on field trips and hopes to start a basketball league.

Art lessons, jewelry making workshops and lessons about character building and morality also are on the slate for this summer, said Love, who before coming to the nonprofit worked as an elementary school art teacher.

York County can help make those programs happen, if the County Council approves the $86 million budget proposed by county staff.

Agencies requesting support from the county and members of the public will have an opportunity to give input Wednesday on York County’s proposed 2012-2013 budget.

The public hearing begins at 6 p.m. in council chambers at 6 S. Congress St. in York. The council is scheduled to make any changes and give final approval to the budget at its June 4 meeting.

Council members have said they would like to hear feedback from the public before determining their positions on a proposal to give county employees a raise and to reinstate an appreciation picnic for volunteer firefighters.

But the public hearing is an opportunity for charities and other agencies requesting county support to discuss how the money, if granted, would be spent or to take questions from the council.

Last year, the council decided to begin phasing out county support for some outside agencies, ones where the county’s contribution seemed more like a charitable donation.

They were cut by 25 percent last year and 33.3 percent this year York County Manager Jim Baker said.

Other organizations scheduled to lose a third of their county support include the Catawba Community Mental Health Center, the Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Attention Home, York County Adult Day Care Services, and United Way.

Agencies providing services the county would otherwise have to provide would be considered for continued support, county leaders said last year.

Some agencies on track to recieve the same support this year as last include the York County Council on Aging, Keystone Substance Abuse Services and the York County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs.

A Place for Hope is one of the organizations whose county support will eventually disappear, but its director Mary Hoppmann says that loss is expected and means they’ll just have to look for support elsewhere.

Companies, churches and donors have been generous to the organization this past year, she said.

Last year the county rejected the nonprofit’s request because the organization asked for matching funds for a grant instead of operational support.

This year A Place for Hope is asking for $8,000, the allocation recommended in the proposed budget. That amount is down from the $14,475 the agency received from the county two years ago.

Hoppmann said the agency reduced its request in expectation and “to be respectful” of the county’s efforts to phase out support.

“We're having to be much more careful with ... spending, as I'm sure everybody is,” she said. “We're just grateful that we were included back in the group this year.”

The money, if granted, will provide after-school and summer day camp activities for children and educational and employment opportunities for adults. It also will help pay for kerosene for heating in winter months and support for a coin-operated laundry facility and wash house.

Porsche Hill said she and others at A Place for Hope just have to be more “creative” in using resources.

Hill started at the center as an intern and after graduating from Winthrop University in May decided to take a paid job where she feels she’s able to make an impact in the children’s lives, no matter how small.

“The kids really light up my life,” she said. “They’re great.”