YouthZone cautiously hopeful about recovering state funds cut from budget |

YouthZone cautiously hopeful about recovering state funds cut from budget

YouthZone officials learned Wednesday that Gov. Owens has proposed that the $4 million in social service programs he cut from the state budget earlier this year be restored.

YouthZone’s piece of that $4 million is $65,000 the governor cut from the organizaton’s budget last May. YouthZone may be able to count on those funds again. But executive director Debbie Wilde isn’t holding her breath.

“This money is from the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Fund,” said Wilde. “It’s great if we get this money back, but we won’t see any of it until our 2003 budget year begins in July.”

Tony Grampsas was a Republican state senator from Evergreen who helped start a youth crime and violence prevention program. After Grampsas died in 1998, Owens proposed that the funding program be named after the late senator.

Statewide, TGYS funding is responsible for supporting a wide range of programs, from GED instruction to child abuse prevention. Besides YouthZone, Wilde said, Garfield Family Visitor Program is another local organization that has received TGYS money.

“Tony Grampsas funds are used broadly throughout the social service sector,” said Wilde.

YouthZone earmarked its TGYS money specifically to fund intervention programs for youth involved in municipal and county court offenses.

“That’s where we come in,” Wilde said. “We’re the translators, so to speak. We work with families and the court system.”

But when YouthZone’s TGYS funding was pulled last May, the organization had to quickly restructure its budget, leaving some children without services.

“That $65,000 was significant in terms of our services,” Wilde said. “We’ve had to move to a more fee-based service, and both municipal and county courts are underwriting a portion of our costs.”

Wilde said she found that families are willing to pay for YouthZone’s expertise.

“Imagine you’re a parent with a child who’s involved in a lower court offense,” she said. “We’ve been offering parents the option of dropping our service or working with us to help their children receive deferred sentences and clean records. Most parents are willing to pay for that.”

But parents who can’t afford fees – even on a sliding scale based on income – have had to be dropped from the program.

“With the TGYS funding back, we have so many children we can service on scholarships,” Wilde said.

Wilde thinks the answer to Owens’ 180-degree change of heart might lie in his new lieutenant governor-elect, Jane Norton, currently the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Because Norton serves on the Tony Grampsas Youth Services board, Wilde said Norton’s influence with the governor might have tipped the scales in favor of reinstating some of that funding.

Owens’ proposed budget initiatives for fiscal year 2003-2004 still have to win approval from the state Legislature. That means it will be March or April before organizations like YouthZone will know if they can again count on TGYS money starting in July 2003.

“If it’s reinstated, hooray! Right on!” said Wilde. “In the meantime, we’re not expecting anything. But if we can get those funds back, that’s really great.”

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