MANATEE -- Over the last five years, the amount of money for children's services has been dwindling, according to those who run programs like the summer day camp at the Rubonia Community Center.
But, thanks to county commissioners, they may have a few more dollars in their budget soon.
In Rubonia, the day camp ended Friday as youngsters prepared for the start of the school year.
"The money has been shrinking the past few years," explained Alexdrena Green, the director of operations at the Rubonia center, which this summer served 50-55 children a day during a nine-week period.
As the recession ground on, and the county generating less tax money, the center was forced to adapt, she said.
"We've been able to maintain with less," Green said, but it's getting more difficult.
The Rubonia facility at 1309 72nd St. E. is operated by the nonprofit United Community Centers, Inc., which also operates Bradenton's 13th Avenue Dream Center.
It costs about $30,000 to run the summer program, and about $70,000 more to operate the center over the remainder of the year, said Cheri Coryea, the county's director of neighborhood services.
The county funds aportion of the center'sbudget, with the remainder from sources like private donors, fundraisers and United Way, said Patrick Carnegie, United Community
"We have been cutting back, trying to limit staff time, not hire staff," he said. "You get to a point where you have to make a decision about turning away kids and families because you can't afford to bring on enough staff; it hurts us with supplies, we've had to cut there."
Center officials are always seeking grant money and every year they put on two big fundraisers: The Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest in April, and Champs Celebrity Sports Night in October, Carnegie said.
During discussion of the county budget, Manatee County commissioners have agreed on what they hope will be a fix that will take some of the pressure off those who operate children's programs.
The commissioners agreed that, over threeyears' time, $1.7 million annually in children's services money that now pays for local detention of youngsters will be redirected to finance true enrichment programs.
For the upcoming year, officials plan to spend $6,985,532 for Children's Services programs; the county's total budget proposal is $458 million.
County Commissioner Larry Bustle, whose district includes Rubonia, also has asked county staff members to try to help Rubonia qualify for federal grant money.
But while officials ponder budgets and bureaucrats scratch out grant requests, time waits for no one.
Kids just grow up.
Tajei Rice, 14, of Palmetto, who attended the Rubonia center's program allsummer, said Thursdayhe had enjoyed field trips like one to a roller-skating rink, playing football on the center's big green ballfield, and using its computer room.
"We had fun," he said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.