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Nov 18, 2008 4:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town considering what human services programs to cut

Nov 18, 2008 4:43 PM

The first programs to go when times are tough are often the ones most needed to help people affected by the economic downturn.

That’s the dilemma faced by the Southampton Town Board in the current economic climate, as funding for human services is in jeopardy. In each of the last four years, the town has allocated $150,000 to human services and $75,000 to culture and arts. But in her proposed 2009 budget, Supervisor Linda Kabot proposes cutting the human services funds by a third.

At a Town Board work session on Friday, Elizabeth Yennie, of the Retreat, which helps East End victims of domestic violence, appealed to Ms. Kabot and members of the board, arguing that her organization needs every dollar the town can spare. She said she is concerned that money her group receives from the town—between $2,000 and $3,000 a year—won’t be there next year.

“Domestic violence is on the rise,” Ms. Yennie said. “We received 290 calls in Southampton in 2007.” The Retreat is the only domestic violence shelter on eastern Long Island, she said, and operates at 100-percent capacity throughout the year. “We offer counseling free of charge,” she said. “Sometimes victims have to come to us under cover for their own safety.”

Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, the board’s human services liaison, said the Retreat is “a wonderful organization” and promised Ms. Yennie she would fight to keep such groups a top priority. “We will do the best we can to make whatever cuts we have to as softly as possible.”

Ms. Kabot said she was sympathetic to Ms. Yennie’s plea and noted that it was during stressful economic times that human and social programs were the most needed. “Public safety needs increase with financial stress and services to prevent violence and alcohol and drug abuse are very important,” she said. “But we need to be mindful of those needs but also of our financial constraints.”

To balance those needs, Ms. Kabot is considering taking $25,000 in arts grants and using that money to fund programs such as the Retreat. Initially, Ms. Kabot’s 2009 budget allocated $100,000 for human services and $75,000 for the arts. That $25,000 would increase the human services budget to $125,000—still less than the current year—and would drop spending on the arts to $50,000.

Zachary Studenroth, director of the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum, who has also served as an historical consultant for the town, said cutting back on the arts was not a good idea. “I understand the need to cut back,” Mr. Studenroth said. “But those grants are often matched by the state and scaling back would mean less grant money.” Tourists are attracted to the town because of its rich art and culture, according to Mr. Studenroth, and he pointed out that the biggest industry in the town is tourism.

Ms. Throne-Holst agreed with the supervisor that finding a balance between which programs to fund and which ones to cut was a difficult one, 
especially in this economy. But she pointed to the philosophical argument that not funding certain programs today may lead to bigger problems tomorrow. “We need to understand the consequences of where and what we cut,” she said.

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The Supervisor should cut some of her own benefits like her expanded staff and free car and free gas, paid for by taxpayers. She earns 100,000 a year. Why should taxpayers pay for her new car and free gas? And who else there is getting free gas? This paper should look into this problem. I dont get free gas and a car to go to work, and I bet none of your reporters do either. Why should the public servants?
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Nov 19, 08 8:25 AM
Oh Hampton, if you only knew where the money went. Tough economic times call for a budget reduction, but certainly the town powers that be won't cut their: cars; travel expenses; medical and pension benefits; or, any other perk that your average citizen does not know about. Instead, they cut valuable services or raise taxes. Can you imagine the gall of those who want to raise taxes when the value of everyone's home is decreasing.

It gets worse the higher up in govt you go. Our state ...more
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Nov 19, 08 12:38 PM