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Several groups accept proposed cuts, but warn against more

Several non-profits, advocacy groups and county employees reluctantly voiced their support for Mecklenburg County's proposed budget last night. But no one pushed the county to spend more on Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. No one gave their wholehearted approval, but several people acknowledged with a $78 million shortfall county services and non-profits would be taking a hit. Lynn Crutchfield is a former board member of the Alexander Youth Network, a group that helps treat children with emotional and behavioral problems. "We can live with the cuts that are in the budget, but we do not want any further cuts to mental health," said Crutchfield. More than 60 people spoke on behalf of groups that included those dealing with mental health, homelessness, job training, and libraries. Some of them urged commissioners not to cut specific programs. Many speakers said the proposed reductions would be manageable, but any more would take a real toll on those who depend on them. Sheriff Chipp Bailey told commissioners that all departments and agencies should equally share the reductions. "My point is our services and those of other agencies are intertwined and we should all be expected to shoulder the burden of these economic times proportionately," said Bailey. County Manager Harry Jones proposes cutting $38 million from county departments and $36 million from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. The hearing lasted three hours, but no one urged commissioners to spend more on CMS. "The real surprise was tonight when very few, in fact, nobody came and spoke in support of CMS's budget and I thought that was quite telling. It's almost as if people have accepted the inevitable," said Commissioner George Dunlap. Commissioners will be putting together a budget over the next two-and-half weeks. They're scheduled to adopt a spending plan June 16th.