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City Manager Proposes Cuts To Human Services, Human Rights

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz has recommended cutting $250,000 from Human Services discretionary funding as part of balancing the city budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1. These cuts would manifest as “reductions in support to local nonprofit agencies such as Looking Glass, St. Vincent de Paul, Womenspace, Lane ShelterCare and a myriad of others,” according to Human Services Commission (HSC) Chair Pat Farr.

Ruiz’s suggestion entails reducing the General Fund contribution for Lane County Human Services by 29 percent, with the option of the Eugene City Council refunding it when city monies become available in December.

Farr, who is also a Lane County commissioner, says he will personally lobby the city manager and Eugene’s Budget Committee to maintain funding at current levels. He adds that cuts have been proposed and often implemented by the cities of Eugene and Springfield, Lane County and the federal government nearly every year since his appointment to the HSC in 1995.

During the Budget Committee’s Jan. 28 public hearing, Womenspace Executive Director Peggy Whalen asked the city to not cut human services funding. 

“Human services funding supports not only our safe house for survivors and families fleeing domestic violence, but also our turning point program, which offers transitional and case management services to survivors who have already left their abusers and are looking for long-term support,” Whalen says. “We actually help them become self-sufficient and live a life abuse free.”

City Councilor Chris Pryor says the uncertainty of human services funding is a challenge in accepting Ruiz’s recommendation.

“But the fact that it’s been placed first in line to be funded when the city funds come available almost sweetens that to the point where I can live with it,” Pryor says.

Ruiz says the proposal gives City Council more flexibility in deciding where the money will be distributed, such as funding Looking Glass or St. Vincent de Paul directly rather than appropriating the money to human services.

“To be candid,” Ruiz says, “if I were the county or HSC, this wouldn’t be my favorite proposal because what happens is they can rely on $250,000 less for budgeting.”

Ruiz also proposed cuts to the Equity and Human Rights Office and to the Neighborhoods Program by reducing $69,000 of materials and supplies and eliminating three currently vacant positions. Those offices deal with discrimination complaints and work with neighborhood associations. 

Equity and Human Rights and Neighborhood Program Manager Michael Kinnison says most services will need to be modified or reduced due to less staff and resources.

“We may have to do some things differently, some things less, maybe figure out how to do things more efficiently and maybe some things not at all,” he says.

Kinnison says neighborhoods could see a reduction in public information and outreach resources, such as newsletters and neighborhood analyses.

“We, like many other parts of the city, have been impacted,” he says. “We’re still confident that we’re going to be delivering services that are contributing value to the city, the organization and the community and hope that folks don’t feel like we’ve made such changes that they feel too aversely impacted.”

Also proposed are cuts to libraries, recreation and travel and reducing the amount the General Fund contributes to Parks and Open Space operations and maintenance requirements. The Budget Committee continues FY15 budget talks 5:30 pm March 6 and 6 pm March 11 at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave.