In his article about national service {op-ed, Nov. 2}, Bruce Chapman conjured up visions of make-work government jobs with ever-rising sticker prices. But the National and Community Services Act of 1990 is not at all the Utopian, pie-in-the-sky plan that he described.

The bill, which was scrutinized for months by the House and Senate, promotes the volunteer ethic, as well as a full-time commitment to service for subsistence wages, with heavy emphasis on state-, community- and school-administered youth-service efforts. It encourages young people from kindergarten to college to participate in service programs.

Chapman charged that the program could end up costing taxpayers more than $11 billion a year. That was inaccurate. The price tag for the measure is $62 million, about one half of a percent of that grandiose figure. What's more, state and local matching monies will be required before any federal funds will be provided.

Why consider this kind of program during tough budgetary times? Because dollar for dollar, it would be a good deal all around. By leveraging the work of young people, a major dent can be made in our pressing service and environmental needs.

In California, for example, one part of the proposal is already a reality. For almost 15 years, the California Conservation Corps has returned to state taxpayers $1.77 in benefits for every dollar spent.

Besides the money issue, Chapman was bothered that some volunteers will receive living allowances; he said that would demoralize "real" volunteers and cause others to expect payment too. But that's not been the case with the CCC. The CCC pays minimum wage to corps members; these corps members, however, also do volunteer work in local communities without pay on their days off. Further, the CCC also has no trouble finding unpaid adult volunteers to assist with the educational and personal development of young people.

Young people are tremendously attracted to the CCC slogan: "Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions -- and More!" They become dedicated corps members, providing valuable environmental work and emergency assistance at bargain rates. At the same time, they receive a good dose of the work and service ethic that most will carry with them throughout their lives.

Conservation corps programs focusing on the environment are just one type of youth service under the National and Community Services Act. A keystone of the president's initiative, the Points of Light Foundation, would receive initial support too; its purpose is to make community service central to every American. The act also will allow young people to work in adult literacy programs and with disabled children, AIDS patients and the homeless.

The proposed National and Community Services Act merits the president's signature. -- Bud Sheble The writer is state director of the California Conservation Corps.