LEWISTON — With less federal block grant money available, councilors said they need to be careful how it gets spent.

Councilors reviewed a scoring system Tuesday that the members of a Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee will use to allocate that money.

Councilors questioned that scoring system last spring when the committee used it to recommend cuts to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center and a Catholic Charities drug treatment program. Advisory committee members said Tuesday they’ve changed the criteria.

“I think the committee put in good amount of time to take council concerns and make some positive changes,” said Councilor Nate Libby, a member of the advisory committee.

The new scoring system gives more weight to programs that match the city’s Comprehensive Plan and to those that meet critical needs. It does away with a criteria used last year that asked if a program was considered high quality.

“We found that really told us very little because every program can be considered high quality,” Libby said.

Block grants are federal money, allocated by the department of Housing and Urban Development to help the city’s poorest areas and residents. The money can be spent on capital projects, used to create housing loans and grants and given to agencies that help Lewiston residents.

Economic Development Director Lincoln Jeffers said the city does not know what it will get next year but assumes it will be reduced. Lewiston’s block grant budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year was $760,314 — $187,644 less than the previous year’s budget and $371,230 less than the budget two years ago.

“Over the last three years alone, we’ve seen a 32 percent cut in this program,” Jeffers said.

Jeffers said members of the committee will begin working on their recomendations in January.

“With the limited dollars, we may not be able to fund everything we have in the past,” Jeffers said. “Ultimately, it’s the council’s decision.”

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