YouthZone funding cut by 10 percent |

YouthZone funding cut by 10 percent

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Local nonprofit YouthZone has learned the state is cutting the juvenile diversion program funding to help reduce the burden on the state’s dwindling tax revenues.

Division of Criminal Justice Director Jeanne Smith wrote in a letter to the diversion program directors, “We are alerting you now in the hope that you will be able to identify local resources that could be tapped to keep your diversion program whole, or at least partially funded until the state’s economic recovery allows for state funding in the future.”

The local nonprofit and other juvenile diversion programs in Colorado received notification that the Division of Criminal Justice will cut all state juvenile diversion funding, according to a statement released from YouthZone on Monday.

The Division of Criminal Justice is within the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The cuts are a result of declining revenue projections, which have led to all state departments reducing their general fund expenditures by 10 percent, the statement reads.

YouthZone has utilized juvenile diversion services for more than 30 years, according to YouthZone Director Debbie Wilde, and the program had a 75 percent success rate of curbing repeat youth offenders.

“We’ve done diversion for 33 years,” Wilde said. “It’s one of the first funded programs that YouthZone had back in its inception.”

Wilde said the state’s funds do not fully support the juvenile diversion program. Garfield and Pitkin County both pitch in funds to support the program, as well, and their support is crucial during these tough economic times, she said.

“It’s really important to continue the program and not to lose kids in the meantime,” Wilde said. “And not to lose the program altogether.”

However, the loss of funds represents approximately a 10 percent reduction in YouthZone’s total budget for the following year. Wilde said YouthZone’s budget runs July though June, and this latest cut, along with other budget cuts, has caused YouthZone to trim 20 to 25 percent of its budget from just two years ago. The current budget for the new fiscal year is $1.1 million, Wilde said.

Wilde was surprised to hear that the diversion program was being “eliminated” from the state programs but, she said, she expected some cuts because of the state’s deficit.

“We definitely anticipated that we were going to have cuts,” she said. “And we expected some from the state. We didn’t anticipate the complete elimination of diversion.”

While the loss in funding is significant, Wilde said that it doesn’t spell the end of the diversion program for Garfield and Pitkin counties altogether. The program will still be funded through YouthZone’s general funds, though that will impact other programs. But, Wilde maintained, YouthZone will keep the diversion program going.

“We still have a job to do and a mission,” Wilde said. “But we can’t keep doing all the same things with less resources.”

Wilde said that YouthZone currently has two open positions that will not be filled due to the cuts.

The nonprofit is in the midst of its annual Kiss-‘n’-Squeal fundraiser currently, and Wilde said that those funds are crucial this year.

“We really need you this year,” she said. “Don’t not vote this year because there is some clear funding pieces that we really need to be sure that we can cover.”

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