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A sign of cuts to come

January 22, 2011

When the City Council brought up the possibility of restoring funding for a popular after-school program, it foreshadowed the tough budgeting decisions yet to come.

The middle school program's $52,000 in city funding was cut last year as City Hall grappled with a multimillion-dollar budget gap, one that could reopen next fiscal year to the tune of $8.8 million. That sets the stage of equally unpalatable funding decisions that could spell the end of popular service programs.

But those budget-cutting decisions will be tainted by City Hall's staunch defense of a nearly $1.9-million budget for employee bonuses. It will be hard to take the City Council's decision to shovel something like a $52,000 after-school program on an already struggling nonprofit community when executives keep handing out more than $1 million in bonuses to city employees.

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The Boys and Girls Club, which picked up the slack after the city cut the funding, has warned that unless additional income is found to support the after-school program, it may have to drop it due to financial concerns — a cautionary tale of the inability of nonprofits to absorb the demand of eliminated or reduced social services.

It is not incumbent on the City Council and the public to make some tough decisions on what's more important — keeping a city employee perk program around amid multimillion-dollar budget deficits, or prioritizing city money to fund those with the greatest need?

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