Coun­cil looks at op­tions in wake of fund de­crease

For­mer, cur­rent of­fi­cials say youth pro­grams will be af­fected

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Af­ter a de­ci­sion from the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers last week to shift fund­ing from the Tri-County Coun­cil to other county-cen­tered pro­grams, the Tri-Coun- ty Coun­cil is search­ing for more op­tions to push for­ward with its sum­mer jobs pro­gram.

The county was set to bud­get $84,000 for the coun­cil in the up­com­ing year with $50,000 go­ing into a sum­mer jobs pro­gram for lo­cal young adults ages 16-21. But now, af­ter a 4-1 vote, the board is shift­ing fund­ing into a county sum­mer in­tern­ship pro­gram to reach more par­tic­i­pants.

Charles County Com­mis­sioner De­bra Davis

(D) said this was a move made “with­out all the facts” by the board of com­mis­sion­ers and was the lone vote of dis­sent in the mo­tion to shift fund­ing.

Davis was the most re­cent chair­woman of the Tri-County Coun­cil. Her term ended last year.

Along with more fund­ing for the in­tern­ship pro­gram, the county will also be adding an agri­cul­tural mar­ket­ing di­rec- tor to the county’s Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment — a goal in the county’s re­cently ap­proved com­pre­hen­sive plan.

But for­mer county com­mis- sioner Reuben Collins, who orig­i­nally cre­ated the sum­mer jobs pro­gram, said the com­mis­sion­ers are mak­ing a mis­take by de­fund­ing the Tri-County Coun­cil and could hurt many peo­ple in the process.

“The fo­cus was on young in- di­vid­u­als who may have been ex-of­fend­ers, teen moms, those kind of things that could cre­ate bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment in many in­stances,” Collins said. “In some of th­ese cases, th­ese kids weren’t all go­ing to col­lege. This gave them an op­por­tu­nity.”

The county is “ab­so­lutely” choos­ing to move away from a pro­gram that was ben­e­fi­cial to young peo­ple, he said. And that does them a disser vice.

Collins orig­i­nally pro­posed the pro­gram in 2012 and had the county fund­ing $30,000 to Tri-County Coun­cil. Com­mis- sion­ers unan­i­mously voted to do so. Af­ter see­ing suc­cesses from the ini­tial pro­gram, he said, they chose to in­crease fund­ing to $50,000 to ex­pand its reach.

Un­like the county’s sum­mer in­tern­ship pro­gram, he said, the sum­mer jobs pro­gram the coun­cil runs does not re­quire in­di­vid­u­als to at­tend col­lege or be a re­cent high school or col- lege grad­u­ate.

“It’s sim­i­lar to the same pro­gram that’s in place in the Dis­trict [of Columbia],” Collins said. “There was a spe­cial fo­cus on low-in­come young peo­ple. And the fo­cus would be to pre­pare them for the job mar­ket. That’s why it was so im­por­tant.”

But County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said, de­spite grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments, the county’s in­tern- ship pro­gram is not seek­ing out a cer­tain type of in­di­vid­ual and will wel­come who­ever ap­plies so long as they meet the cri­te­ria.

“I don’t think that’s go­ing to ex­clude any­body,” Mur­phy said. “It’s not a non-pay­ing in- tern­ship pro­gram. They will be paid. They will be mak­ing money and they will have the op­por- tu­nity to be men­tored.”

Ul­ti­mately, he said, it is just an in­stance where the county gov­ern­ment is look­ing to im­prove it­self. He be­lieves the county can sup­port it­self bet­ter with money in other places, he said, and are re­ally mak­ing this deci- sion “as a cour­tesy.”

“I don’t ex­pect that if we make any of th­ese changes, that some of the pro­grams that are there, I would cer­tainly hope they’d be able to con­tinue,” Mur­phy said.

Collins said the county should ex­pand its in­tern­ship pro­gram and should look to add an ag- ri­cul­tural mar­ket­ing po­si­tion to its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment, but “not at the ex­pense of the chil­dren” who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Tri-County Coun­cil pro­gram.

Ruth Davis, di­rec­tor of the coun­cil’s re­gional work­force pro­gram, said the coun­cil is al- ways look­ing for other fund­ing meth­ods and op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­crease the reach of its work­force pro­gram.

Since the coun­cil will no lon- ger re­ceive fund­ing for the pro­gram from Charles County, she said, they will have to find other meth­ods and con­tinue to use state money granted by Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s (R) of­fice.

Charles County is reg­u­larly re­quired to fund the coun- cil $9,000, but that will not be enough to keep the pro­gram mov­ing at the lev­els it cur­rent- ly is, Davis said. The other two coun­ties are only re­quired to fund the coun­cil $7,000 an­nu­ally.

They do not know how much fund­ing they will get from the gov­er­nor’s of­fice as of yet, she said. In the past, the coun­cil has re­ceived as much as $44,000 to split be­tween the three coun­ties. But other times, she said, they have only been able to pro­vide each county with $4,000.

“It all de­pends on what they feel they need to give,” Davis said.

The $50,000 Charles County granted to the coun­cil went di- rectly to county cit­i­zens. Over the last three years, she said, 104 peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram. In 2016, she said, 39 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated.

Of those 39, nine were hired for full-time po­si­tions at the end of the sum­mer; four were hired with other em­ploy­ers; three re­ceived paid in­tern­ships; 20 re­turned to school; one went to the armed forces; an­other is car­ing for a child; and an­other moved out of the county.

“I say all of that to say, the goal for this pro­gram has never been full-time em­ploy­ment,” Davis said. “It’s a nice ben­e­fit, but the real ben­e­fit is get­ting into a work en­vi­ron­ment with a real busi­ness to see if this ca­reer choice is truly what they’re in­ter­ested in.”

Collins said the pro­gram is too ben­e­fi­cial to young peo­ple to com­pletely re­move from the county’s fund­ing. Davis agreed.

Davis said “many other pro­grams,” just like the sum­mer youth pro­gram, will be neg­a­tively ef­fected by the board of county com­mis­sioner’s ac­tions. “I don’t know why we’re mov­ing so fast,” she said.

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