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Opponents of Allegheny County Budget Cuts Spoke Out to County Council

More than one hundred parents, child advocates, members of the clergy, and others gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Wednesday, urging the County Council to avoid cuts to the Department of Human Services.

County Executive Dan Onorato's proposed $730 million budget for 2012 includes $19.3 million in cuts to DHS. Those at the rally were calling on the council to reinstate $5 million that would directly affect children, youth and families.

"If the proposed budget is adopted, all 26 of our county's support centers and a vast array of other proven programs will risk immediate closure. This would be a tragedy for thousands of families, a retreat from our history of human services leadership and innovation, and a major financial mistake," said Laura Townsend, director of the Family Support Policy Board of Allegheny County.

Those opposed to the cuts said that without the county funding, programs would lose out on $17 million in state and federal match funds. Plus, the United Way of Allegheny County estimates that about 1,000 jobs would be lost.

More than 50 people testified before the County Council, urging them to look elsewhere for budget cuts. Many said the same thing: that they are arguing not so much for money, but for services that provide, among other things, programs for youth, counseling, housing assistance, and parent support groups.

"We have so many people in this county that are keeping their children at home, that are keeping their family together, and are barely hanging on, and without the couple of different social services they receive, they don't maintain that employment, they don't maintain their household, and on the backside, we're going to be spending far more money down the road," said John Lydon, CEO of Auberle, speaking on behalf of the Greater Pittsburgh Non-Profit Partnership.

Wednesday was the first of two meetings this week in which the council is seeking public input on budget issues. On Thursday, they will hear testimony on special allocation to the Port Authority and CCAC.