Money is tight at Lubbock City Hall, and discussions over the budget are heating up. Wednesday, some council members questioned whether the city is spending too much money on what they call county programs.
One sticking point is the STAR Program. It is designed to help troubled kids get back on track. It costs $360,000 to run each year. Since the program started, the cost was split equally among three groups: the City of Lubbock, Lubbock County, and the Lubbock Independent School District.
But now some city council-members question whether the city should continue spending money on the program. The STAR Program is designed to help troubled teens get back on track teens who commit minor crimes like shoplifting and vandalism. But, there is a brewing debate, about who should pay for the STAR Program: the City of Lubbock, or Lubbock County.
City Councilman Ty Cooke says the county is responsible for providing juvenile justice. "It's not the city's responsibility, we're having trouble balancing our budget, and we're picking up the tab for other entities," said Cooke.
Lubbock County Commissioner Gilbert Flores says keeping the STAR Program should be a community project. "When it comes to the issue about kids, it's everybody's responsibility, we do our share, we put in an equal amount into the program," said Flores.
Besides, Flores says most of the crime is inside the City of Lubbock. Consider these statistics: 32%of teens in the STAR Program are referred by the City of Lubbock. 47% come from the Lubbock Independent School District, and 21% of teens are referred by Lubbock County.
Since last August, 400 teens went through the STAR Program and it is future may be hinge on whether its working. "We need to make sure the program we're funding is working and if its not, then we need to get other programs that will work," said Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal.
Director of the Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center, Les Brown says the numbers speak for themselves. "73% of teens have positive results. For 25% of teens, the program is not effective. But, we need to concentrate on 73% that it is effective with," said Brown.
Thursday morning, Mayor Marc McDougal plans to meet with county officials to talk about the growing debate over who should pay for the STAR Program and other issues.