OGDEN -- Worried about cutting personnel in the current economic climate, the Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center has higher hopes than usual for its major annual fundraiser set for next month.
The Weber-Morgan center opened in 1992 and was the first of 15 children's justice centers now in Utah.
The centers provide a child-friendly environment for police to interview child victims of sexual abuse and other crimes.
They replace the smoke-filled rooms of detective's offices of 18 years ago, when youngsters shared space with thieves, drug addicts and other lawbreakers.
Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center Director Rod Layton describes a budget that has no flex left in it.
The roughly half-million-dollar annual budget comes from a variety of sources, including a number of small grants, such as $10,000 from Weber County, and a half-dozen fundraising events, all coming at different times.
The largest chunk is a $268,000 appropriation from the Utah Legislature that has stayed the same for three years.
But at the same time, Layton said, crime is increasing.
This year, Layton and staff were bracing for a 5 percent cut or more from lawmakers. Because that cut would have been $14,000 or more, they were prepared to cut employees.
"We don't have anywhere to cut but personnel," Layton said. "We were expecting to get slam-dunked."
But several legislators were key to keeping the appropriation untouched. Layton credits a Utah County legislator and Sen. Jon Greiner for fighting hard to save their funding.
"He's been here a hundred times," Layton said of Greiner, the Ogden police chief who has been forced to cancel his re-election campaign over federal Hatch Act complications.
The children's justice center employs two full-timers, one three-quarter position and four part-timers, plus two nurses from McKay-Dee Hospital who remain Intermountain Healthcare employees with the CJC among their duties.
A volunteer corps assists as well.
"We're putting a lot of stress on the resources we have, including the volunteers," Layton said.
Last year, the center served 840 children, including medical exams of injuries.
Among those 840 children, 483 were interviewed as victims by police in the center's two video- and audio-equipped interview rooms. The rooms are decked out in kid-friendly furnishings and populated by stuffed animals and other toys.
While the $268,000 is now set after months of worry, the timing and amounts of the other funding sources is uncertain, as always.
That, Layton said, makes the budget's second-largest funding source -- the center's largest fundraiser set for May 1 -- more important than ever.
It typically brings in roughly $60,000, which is also this year's target, he said.
But it's a worry because of cutbacks in philanthropy in this uncertain economic climate, he said.
"It's big for us this year," Layton said.
This year's event, to be held at the Eccles Conference Center in downtown Ogden, is titled "Dancing on a Starry Night."
Details and tickets are available at cjcogden.org.
The two dozen members of Friends of the Weber-Morgan CJC kick in financially all year, Layton said.
A Friends member has already agreed to cover a plumbing bill that is approaching $500 for the center at 2408 Van Buren Ave.