News

Bush budget pains felt here

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

President George Bush's proposed budget was being reviewed –– and criticized, in some cases –– in Federal Way this week.

The $2.5 trillion budget would cut into several state and local programs. White House officials have said the proposed cuts in the domestic budget are meant to help reign in the deficit by 2009 and remove programs the administration has determined aren't producing the results they were intended to reap.

Some cuts were to be expected, but the president's budget would be a serious hit to the Multi-Service Center, said Dini Duclos, chief executive officer of the Federal Way-based social services agency.

MSC helps low-income people in several ways, including assistance in paying utility bills. Bush's budget has legislation that would change how the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) determines its electricity rates. Northwest utility customers could see a rate increase, and Duclos said that will only make it more difficult for low-income residents to pay utilities and for the organization to help.

Additionally, MSC could lose up to $200,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant dollars. Duclos said the organization was planning to use some of the money it would get this year to buy and renovate a rundown apartment complex. It also helps low-income residents find work.

Duclos countered the Bush administration's point that programs are being cut that aren't working. She said Multi-Service Center is accountable for the money it spends and keeps detailed records.

Bush's budget proposal is not just hurting the center, but is hurting the whole community, Duclos said.

The budget from the 43rd president also has some of the state's politicians up in arms.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell fired off a press release shortly after the White House released the proposal earlier this week. The senator took aim at several aspects of the budget proposal, including $7 million in block grant money.

Some of those dollars go to the city of Federal Way –– about $818,000 for 2005. That's more than 5 percent less than what the city received in 2004, according to Derek Matheson, assistant city manager. If Bush's proposal of combining several assistance grants and reducing the funding becomes a reality, that dollar amount will drop substantially, Matheson said.

Multi-Service Center also receives block grant dollars.

Federal Way Public Schools officials already knew a couple of federal education programs were getting cut. Sally McLean, the district's chief financial officer, said a small $40,000 program under Title IID and the Safe and Drug Free program –– $115,000 –– have been removed.

The latter program has been entirely cut at the state level –– $5.7 million –– and that money is the foundation for drug prevention and intervention programs in Washington, said Kim Schmanke, a spokeswoman the state superintendent of public instruction.

There are increases to some state education funding, Schmanke said, such as a 2.9 percent hike for programs supporting the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. But that means money was taken from other programs, she added.

Officials at the two community colleges in south King County –– Highline and Green River –– were still going through the Bush budget and haven't come to any conclusions about its potential impacts. But at the state Board for Community and Technical Colleges, there is concern about adult basic education.

In the president's proposal, adult basic education –– which includes GED and English as a Second Language (ESL) –– would be cut 74 percent. The community colleges in Washington teach 95 percent of the adult basic education classes.

"It's absolutely devastating," said Suzy Ames, spokeswoman for the state board.

Another program, called TRIO, helps low-income, disabled and first-generation college students get funding for school. Bush's budget proposes cutting that by 56 percent.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9th District, which includes Federal Way) called Bush's budget "fiscal irresponsibility." He noted programs such as the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and funding for local firefighters were cut by $480 million and $215 million respectively.

"This would certainly make the competition for funding a lot tougher

with less dollars to go around," said Donna Conner, Federal Way Fire Department's human resource manager.

The city of Federal Way hasn't used COPS in several years, Matheson said.

Another federal grant program the Police Department has used for technology purchases is also being watched, he added.

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate haven't released their budgets. Once they do, it will be up to Congress to pen a final budget for the president's approval.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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