Nonprofits say Fischer's budget makes victims of children, needy

Nonprofits say Fischer's budget makes victims of children, needy

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mayor Greg Fischer's budget proposal makes devastating cuts to programs, and children and needy people will become the victims, leaders from some Louisville nonprofits said Wednesday.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana faces 60 percent cut in its funding from Metro government, Brenda Bankston, director of grants and development, told Metro Council's budget committee.

"This is something we just found out about yesterday," Bankston said. "That would be a cut of serving 100 kids (currently) down to only 13. It's a really drastic cut."

[RELATED: Mayor unveils $873 million budget proposal]

A spokesman for Fischer sought to distance the mayor from the cuts to several nonprofit groups, saying Fischer didn't come up with the recommendations.

Representatives from 19 groups signed up to speak Wednesday at the only scheduled public hearing on the budget. The signup sheet was half as long as it was in 2014, puzzling some Metro Council members.

"It is down from years past, and we're not sure whether word didn't get out, or if needs are being met better," said Kelly Downard, a Republican who's the budget committee vice-chairman.

Annette Darnell, a representative of the Neighborhood Place South Central, voiced concern about Fischer's plan to shut down three of the city's six centers for Women, Infants and Children.

Metro Public Health and Wellness expects to close the Fairdale, South Louisville and Middletown locations because of dwindling participation, she said.

"When you look at the statistics and the track record and the need to increase participation, this is not the way to go about it," said Darnell.

She said many of the low-income participants won't be able to get to other WIC locations, and expected foreign-born participants wouldn't be able to access programs online because of a language barrier.

"We're going to be talking to the health department about WIC, I can tell you that," Downard said. "That was really astounding."

The WIC changes include new outreach efforts, including in the hospitals where children are born, said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for the mayor.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has 477 children on a waiting list that will grow if budget cuts go through, Bankston said.

"We thought having our program in the forefront would be important to the mayor, so we were surprised that our funding was cut for a mentoring program that works," Bankston said.

A citizen committee makes grant decisions for nonprofits, and Fischer accepts the recommendations without making changes, Poynter said.

Budget committee chairwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, a Democrat, pledged to take a second look at aspects of the budget before approving it.

"These agencies have a track record of proven success in serving the needs that Metro government does not," she said.

The public hearing is the first step in Metro Council's process of approving a budget. Final approval is tentatively set for later this month after several hearings with Metro agencies.

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