Council officials give assurances to Crawford YSB
Several Indiana counties, including Crawford, are feeling the pinch of financial shortages due to last year's delayed property tax billing and the need to borrow money to pay bills, which then led to interest on money that was borrowed.
The faltering economy has made matters even worse, because money that many agencies and programs depend on to operate has begun drying up, and the counties where those programs are located are not in a position to offer much help.
The Youth Service Bureau, one of Crawford County's most effective and respected programs, is also feeling the pinch. The agency gets its funding from several sources, including the Crawford County Community School Corp., the county itself and from grants.
But those who run the program have been a little nervous about funding recently due to not being included in the county budget and having important grants run out. At a recent meeting, the YSB Board of Directors discussed ways to reduce expenses, including staff cut-backs. But, board members agreed that the program was already operating as efficiently as possible and further staff cut-backs would be harmful to the program itself.
"Without the $30,000 we normally get each year from the county, it's not clear how long we can operate," YSB Board President Jim Montgomery said. "If nothing happens by June, we may have to shut the doors."
However, Crawford County Councilman Joey Robinson, who also serves on the YSB board, assured the board that the county would do all it can to help.
"We'll do everything we can to keep this program going," Robinson said. "I know the county council is on board with this. You guys are running a school here. Many people don't realize all you do. This program puts less strain on the county than sending these kids elsewhere."
Both Montgomery and YSB Director Allison Millar agreed with Robinson.
"It would cost the county about $135 to $150 a day per kid to have them in a private program," Millar said.
Montgomery added that to send one young person to the Southwestern Regional Youth Center in Vincennes costs the county about $130,000 a year.
"Just keeping that one kid in the program at YSB will be a three-fold return on the county's investment," he said.
In addition to running an alternative school program, the YSB is now also helping Crawford County Junior-Senior High School with its expulsion/suspension program, which the school is obligated to have available for its students who are suspended or expelled from regular school.
"Usually, the suspension is for one to 10 days," Millar said. "We have a rigid program that requires them to complete any work sent to us by the school. We require them to participate in a community service project, and they also must complete a lifeskills training program.
"And our expulsion program has worked well, also. The kids who have been expelled must be here all day. They can earn up to four credits a semester, but they must also participate in the community service and lifeskills programs. Most of them have been expelled because of drug problems, mostly prescription drugs," she said. "We had six who the high school expelled last year. Most of them excelled in our academic program. Some are back in school, and some are still with us."
Millar went on to explain that the kids who are expelled must think about the consequences for the choices they make.
"We want these kids to go back to regular school," she added. "And we want them to be successful. Once they have been referred to us, they must complete the program in order to go back to school. We don't want them to like it here.
"We are strict and consistent. For some of these kids, we may be the only positive adults they've ever had in their lives. These kids love boundaries. If you set boundaries, they know you care about them. … And if you care enough to say no, they still like it."
Jerry Brewer, president of the county council, said in a later interview that even though the YSB money wasn't in the current budget, the county hasn't deserted the agency.
"That's a great program," Brewer said. "We'll do everything we can to keep them funded. The county has to watch every dollar now to make ends meet, but this is one of those things that we can't afford to lose. They always do a good job with those kids, and what they do makes a big difference."
Millar is still looking for new grants and hopes to find other money to help with funding the programs.
"Grants are getting harder to find now," she said, "but it would be nice to have other financial help. We have been honored to be the model program that other counties use to develop their own programs. Just think about it — our little-bitty program as a model for the rest of the state. That says a lot."