Victim-Witness Program Falling Short on Funding; One Person to be Laid off in ’07

CLEARFIELD – When a crime happens, attorneys brief the defendant on what will happen, but for the witnesses and victims of crime, there was not anywhere to turn not that long ago.

That was, until the Clearfield County Victim-Witness Program was put into place.

Now, victims and witnesses have somewhere for their questions to be answered and more.

But, the program has learned that two grants for which are being applied will not cover the costs of the program, one that is required because of laws regarding notification for victims of crime.

The Clearfield County Commissioners approved applying for two grants, the Rights and Services Act grant and the Victims of Juvenile Offenders grant.

Both grants are for two years, and the RASA grant will provide $48,398 for 2007 and $49,850 for 2008, while the VOJO grant will provide $25,026 for each year.

The RASA grant represents an increase of $2,150 for 2007 over the allocation for 2006 and an increase of $1,452 in 2008 over the amount for 2007. The VOJO grant decreased in funding, dropping $253 for each of the two years.

Despite the changes in funding, the costs continue to rise for the department, for everything from wages to health insurance and even supplies.

Judy Shirey, victim-witness coordinator, said the part-time secretarial position, funded by the RASA grant, will be eliminated in 2007. Shirey has also considered cutting hours for another person in the office, a victims’ advocate.

“We’re trying every way to use this grant as effectively as we can,” Shirey told the commissioners Tuesday.

“Both Mr. (Rex) Read (commissioner) and I agree with the importance of this program,” Mike Lytle, commissioner, said. “How it will be funded will be something for budget time.”

With the grants, the office is still staring down a more than $5,600 deficit in 2007 and a nearly $11,000 deficit in 2008.

Read asked what would happen if the deficit were to not be funded, to which Shirey replied: “The services have to be provided as required by the Crime Victims Notification Act. … Somebody else would have to do it.”

Lytle said the issue can be examined in the county’s next budget, and “perhaps there are some things we’re funding now that we shouldn’t be funding.”

Lytle and Read approved applying for the grants for the program.

“This is great that we get this amount of money,” Shirey said. “And we’ll take it as far as we can.”

Clearfield County Commissioner Chairman Mark McCracken was not at Tuesday’s meeting because he was attending a commissioners’ conference.

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