Budget ax hits women's center

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By AMY LINDBLOM

Liz Sewell's desk, tucked inside her cramped office, is actually a fold-up table on top of plastic boxes she uses for file cabinets.

From this desk, Sewell on Monday had to tell four full-time employees at the Mountain Women's Resource Center that yesterday would be their last day. And several other staff members learned their hours were being cut back.

Sewell, the center's executive director, who oversees 24 employees, has acted on the worst-case, but highly likely scenario that the center will be shorted $210,000 because of California's budget stalemate and huge debt.

The money basically paid for the domestic violence programs Mountain Women's Resource Center runs in Tuolumne County.

Calaveras County Women's Crisis Center Director Kelli Coane has not had to lay off anyone yet. But she said she's worried about what is coming down from Sacramento.

"Some of the proposals are really scary," Coane said. "But things change daily up there, so it's hard to tell what's actually going to be cut. We are shifting our money around and praying the budget will be approved soon."

The Calaveras County center is one program among several under the direction of the county's Human Resources Council, so some budget shifting might be a way to keep center programs afloat.

The Tuolumne County center doesn't have that option.

Sewell said the people she laid off were in administrative positions that would have the least impact on client services. Sewell also reduced her own hours and salary.

For the past three years, the Sonora-based center received one-third of its total operating expenses from the state's general fund through the Maternal Child Health program.

And this year, Sewell renegotiated a five-year contract for the money. The contract was to be signed July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, but that has yet to happen.

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The Union Democrat
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