08/31/13 — Literacy Connections to ask commissioners to reconsider

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Literacy Connections to ask commissioners to reconsider

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 31, 2013 10:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday could be asked to reappropriate the $27,000 for staffing that they chopped from the Literacy Connections of Wayne County budget just two months ago.

Pat Yates, Literacy Connections executive director, is expected to make that request during the board's Tuesday work session.

The meeting will get under way with an 8 a.m. agenda briefing followed by the official meeting at 9 a.m. Both will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Literacy Connections had requested $111,205 from the county, but that amount was reduced to $90,000 in County Manager Lee Smith's original budget proposal.

During a June budget work session, Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he had no problem with the agency's goals, but questioned the cost and a budget that had "exploded."

He also questioned why Literacy Connections was teaching English as A Second Language.

Daughtery said his understanding was that Literacy Connections had been planned as a nonprofit organization, but that organizers could not support it, and the county took over.

It should be self-sustaining, he said.

Daughtery then made a motion to further reduce the funding from $90,000 to $85,000. Commissioner Ray Mayo offered an amendment not to reduce the funding, but then withdrew it.

Daughtery's motion was approved 5-2. Commissioners John Bell and Ed Cromartie voted no.

A copy of Ms. Yates' PowerPoint presentation is included with Tuesday's agenda, which was posted Thursday on the county website. However, a budget amendment reflecting the request was not included with the other budget amendments on the agenda.

Barbara Arntsen, the county's public information office, Friday afternoon said that Chairman Steve Keen asked for the work session.

Ms. Arntsen was asked if the county's finance office had prepared a budget amendment. She said that the office did not have one ready for commissioners.

"Pat Yates may ask for money or resources during that presentation, but there is no pre-approved budget request," she said.

Commissioners have heard Ms. Yates' presentation before. She made a similar plea for funding during the board's budget public hearing.

Her presentation reiterates that Wayne County has the lowest literacy rate in the area.

According to the presentation, one in 10 adults in the county cannot read, and one in four reads below a third-grade level.

And it ties the problem to the pocketbook saying that it costs industrial and others employers in each county of the state more than $3.3 million apiece to remediate workers who cannot read.

It notes as well that health care costs for low-literacy adults are four times greater than the national average, or about $14.6 million in additional cost per county annually.

Literacy Connections was incorporated in 2009 under the Charitable Partnership of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

It started with three students. Today, there are more than 475 students and more than 229 volunteer tutors.

Literacy Connections offers free tutoring in reading and communications, computer and technology skills and math six days a week.