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The Open Line Eliminated from 2013 County Budget
Written by Larry Roeder and Kelly Chandler
2012-11-20

        Balancing the 2013 Montgomery County budget may not have included a property tax increase for next year but it will come with some pain for many organizations, among them The Open Line of Pennsburg.

        The $411 million preliminary budget was unveiled last Thursday by county commissioners and will hold the county tax rate at 3.152 mills, but it also will cut nearly $1 million worth of earmarks.
        Area groups being cut from the 2013 budget include The Open Line in Pennsburg, ($27,800), SPCA in Abington, Conshohocken and Perkiomenville ($7,100) and Camp Rainbow in Lower Frederick Township ($48,750), a non-profit residential camp for financially, emotionally or socially challenged children.  
        Although those amounts total to less than 9 percent of the total earmarks cut, the groups will need to seek alternative funds to close their gaps if the budget proposal is passed.
        Other major cuts for earmarks came to the Elmwood Park Zoo ($114,000), Montco Legal Aid ($281,700) and Host Community Block Grants ($259,800). An educational subsidy was also cut to Montgomery County Community College to the tune of $5.1 million. 
        Lilibet Coe, executive director of The Open Line (TOL) was notified earlier this week by Commissioner Bruce Castor that the group, and 16 other organizations, had been cut from the 2013 budget. Castor suggested that officials from The Open Line attend the upcoming budget hearings in hopes that the group could generate support from the private sector.
        In an email last week to the commissioners, Coe wrote “Although we were able to substantially boost revenues in 2011-12, we anticipate 2012-13 to be more challenging and the following year even more so. It is a delicate balance that we as not-for-profits must maintain, ensuring sufficient revenues and adequate reserves to keep the agency going, while at the same time preserving our case for support when we appear to be doing well. We hope that our efforts to strengthen TOL will be acknowledged through a demonstration of support by the county for the UPV community.”
        The Open Line already dealt with approximately $42,000 in cutbacks for the last fiscal year, ending June 30, from the Human Services Development Fund, FEMA, the United Way and the county. But thanks to work as a subcontractor for the Keystone Opportunity Center, a WW Smith Charitable Trust grant, and a generous response from the business community and private donors, the agency was able to realize a small surplus.
        But with the elimination of funding from the county now, which amounts to more than 21 percent of their annual budget, Coe said the agency is left scrambling to make the numbers work.
        “Believe me I understand everybody has to find ways to be more effective and efficient but I think there needs to be a more thoughtful process. A month, six weeks notice; that is really insufficient for us to put any kind of plan in place before the beginning of the next calendar year.”
         She explained The Open Line will be exploring a number of options for decreasing expenditures and increasing revenue, including staffing changes. Coe is set to retire from her position Dec. 31, 2012 and said agency is trying to find ways to avoid paying an executive director’s salary.
        “The hope is that we’ll find a way around it as we always do,” she said, noting the agency’s services are free and in increasing demand. Last year The Open Line received 20,000 requests for a variety of assistance.
        Area residents will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at a public budget hearing on Thursday, Nov. 29. Speaking times at the hearing will be held from 10:10 to 11:40 a.m., and from 5:10 to 6:50 p.m. 
        Coe and The Open Line Board President Greg Dickey are scheduled to speak at the hearing at 11 a.m. Coe said they plan to appeal the county’s decision, despite being told by officials the funding will not be reinstated, even in part.
        The 2013 Montgomery County budget hearing will be held in the Commissioners’ Board Room, One Montgomery Plaza, 8th Floor, 425 Swede Street in Norristown.
        Anyone wishing to make a public comment can schedule a 10-minute window to speak at www.montcopa.org.
        A final vote will take place Dec. 21.
        “This is an issue and the community needs to make their voice known,” Coe said.

 

 

 

 

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