INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A “tremendous blow” came to Tahoe Women’s Services this week when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the state’s $20.4 million program to support domestic violence shelters and centers.
“We knew that cuts were coming, so we prepared for it,” said Karen Carey, TWS executive director. “But we were preparing for some cuts, maybe some substantial cuts, but not for the state to completely eliminate this funding.”
The state-wide cut means a 17 percent budget reduction for the North Shore and Truckee domestic violence agency.
On Tuesday Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto authority to cut $656 million in programs that will let the state restore a reserve fund he said is needed for tough times. The governor made the cuts after the state Assembly rejected about $1.1 billion in revenues from local transportation funding and by allowing new offshore oil drilling.
Those vetoes included the Department of Public Health’s domestic violence program, severing $20.4 million in funds to 94 domestic violence shelters and centers across California. Before the governor’s vetoes, the state Legislature approved a 20 percent reduction to the program.
After overcoming the initial shock of the cuts, Carey said she is looking for ways to meet the budget reduction while still maintaining TWS’s level of service.
“My No. 1 goal is to be able to provide quality domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse services,” Carey said. “Our staff delivers those services and we cant deliver those services without the staff.”
Nonessential costs are the first thing Carey said she would look at cutting. After Carey and TWS staff come up with a budget to meet the reduced funding, it will be brought before the TWS finance committee for approval.
“For the sake of my staff I would like to have it happen fairly quickly, but thoughtfully,” Carey said about a timeline for the new budget. “I am not rushing into anything. I want to make sure that the decisions that are made are good ones for the organization.”
TWS is also looking for other grants and donations to help bridge the loss.
“There is always the hope and possibility that donations will come in and we will be able to receive additional dollars through grants to help make up for this,” she said. “But that will take some time and we believe strongly in having a budget that makes sense and works so we are striving to find ways to meet those cuts.”
The nonprofit agency is also looking for people to volunteer their time in different areas, said Volunteer Coordinator Erin Everett.
“We have volunteer opportunities available almost every day of the week,” she said.
After Schwarzenegger made his vetoes Tuesday, state Democrats immediately questioned whether he had the authority to make some of the cuts. One of them was Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who negotiated the original budget compromise with Schwarzenegger.
“We will fight to restore every dollar of additional cuts to health and human services,” Steinberg said in a written statement. “This is not the last word.”
However, California’s domestic violence shelters and programs cannot count on that money coming back immediately, said Tara Shabazz, executive director of The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.
“We are not putting all of our eggs in one basket but we are working with our allies in the legislature to getting these fund reinstated,” Shabazz.
Likewise Carey said her agency is continuing to diversify it’s funding.
“With challenges come opportunities,” she said. “(These cuts) force us to recognize how important it is that we are not dependent on government grants.”