Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas sheriff's budget to cut out PAL, other youth programs

Programs designed to help at-risk kids steer clear of crime have themselves been put at risk by hefty cuts to the Pinellas County sheriff's budget.

Affected are Step Up for at-risk youths, the after-school homework assistance program and the Police Athletic League program. The after-school program is offered in Lealman, High Point and Rainbow Village. PAL, with its emphasis on sports, is offered across the county is such places as Lealman and Dunedin. Although the programs target kids from low-income to poverty-level families, any child is welcome.

Step Up and the after-school program have been funded from the sheriff's operating budget, but that's about to end, said Bob Gualtieri, chief deputy. The sheriff has to cut about $20.1 million from his budget. Most of the cuts have centered on so-called life skills programs, while the focus remains on the department's core law enforcement services.

Step Up, with constructive activities and classes, has received a $150,000 federal grant, and that and the after-school program have been moved to the PAL budget. Until now, a small part of PAL's funding has come from the sheriff, with the majority from private donations. From now on, PAL will have to receive all its funding from private sources.

That's what puts all the programs at risk, Gualtieri said. PAL has enough money to keep itself and the other programs going for about a year, maybe a bit more if belts are tightened, but all will be eliminated after that if fundraising falls flat.

"I don't see anything that's imminent," Gualtieri said, but they are "in jeopardy."

Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, who is on the PAL board, said the organization has some money available from fundraising but that it will only go so far. Board members had "big and heartfelt conversations" at their last meeting on how much money must be raised to keep PAL going, he said. But it's worth the struggle because "wherever PAL goes, youth crime diminishes."

"We're open to all donations and people who want to step in," Brickfield said. "We're just giving kids a safe place to play."

The prospect of losing the programs distresses Lealman Community Association president Ray Neri. Neri and his group had long lobbied to have programs to help the area's youth and were thrilled when the sheriff moved in.

The success of the programs, Neri said, can be seen by the hundreds of kids who come to the various activities. They've found out about the programs mostly through word of mouth because no advertising has been done in the schools or elsewhere. It's testimony, he said, to the need, the community interest and the willingness of kids to participate if given constructive activities.

"It was such a profound idea to engage kids before they got into real trouble, to offer them mentorships," he said. "It gives them the opportunity to use their energy in positive ways."

Neri said he understands the need to be more frugal in harsh economic times, but that eliminating programs that keep kids off the streets is fiscally foolish in the long run.

Taxpayers may save money now, he said, but they'll pay thousands more on the other end to prosecute and house kids who get into trouble later in life.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450 or twitter.com/alindbergtimes.

FAST FACTS

An active place

The Pinellas Sheriff's PAL Lealman Sports Complex is at 3755 46th Ave. N. The complex is open from 1:30 until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday during the school year. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school holidays. The PAL complex offers basketball, street hockey, beach volleyball, flag football, four-square, tetherball and a game room and will soon house a boxing program. For information on programs, call Brian Till at (727) 580-4104.

For information about PAL, call Jerry

Babcock at (727) 528-5779 or e-mail

jbabcock@pcsonet.com.

Pinellas sheriff's budget to cut out PAL, other youth programs 05/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 4:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida man sits in jail 90 days when drywall power is mistaken for cocaine (w/video)

    Crime

    OVIEDO — A Florida man spent 90 days in jail after police officers who stopped him for driving without headlights said white powder found in his car was cocaine.

    Karlos Cashe spent 90 days in jail after Oviedo police officers who stopped him for driving without headlights said white powder found in his car was cocaine. But he walked out of jail last week after lab results determined the powder in the handyman's car was actually drywall. [Photo from video] 

  2. Coming to Netflix in July: 'Rogue One,' 'E.T.,' 'Castlevania' and more

    Blogs

    Just when I think Netflix has outdone itself with new releases and originals, it surprises me with another month of superb offerings coming to the streaming site.

    Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  3. Jones: Serena Williams, and all women, deserved better from John McEnroe

    Tennis

    John McEnroe might be the best sports analyst in broadcasting.

    Serena Williams makes a backhand return to her sister Venus during the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in January in  Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  4. Watch: Provocateur targets CNN producer with hidden camera video

    National

    NEW YORK —A conservative provocateur posted a video Tuesday of a man identified as a CNN producer commenting on his network's coverage of President Donald Trump and connections to Russia.

    Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]
  5. Protesters demand Confederate statue be moved from old Hillsborough courthouse

    News

    TAMPA – Politicians, clergy and community leaders demanded Tuesday that the Hillsborough County commission reverse course and remove a Confederate monument from the old county courthouse.

    (From left) Mike Reed, Kristen Perry and Dayna Lazarus hold protest signs Tuesday in front of a Confederate monument on the grounds of Hillsborough County's old courthouse. Protesters want the statue removed. ALESSANDRA DA PRA   Times]