GENEVA – When Chris Morris of Geneva thinks of her two developmentally disabled daughters, she considers how a near total lack of housing support affects their lives.
“Haley is 21, and Caroline is 18,” Morris said. “There is just a lack of funding for adults with disabilities in Illinois, and specifically in Kane County. Funding from the state level is declining and inadequate. So it’s important for us in Kane County to try to secure additional funding locally for Kane residents. It goes back to taking care of your own in your own community.”
Morris and other advocates are collecting 20,000 signatures to put a referendum on the April 9 consolidated election ballot. Voters would be asked to support a 0.1 percent property tax levy increase for housing and other services for developmentally disabled adults. The deadline to file a ballot referendum is Jan. 7.
Supporters say it would cost the owner of a house valued at $182,000 – the median home market value in Kane County, according to the assessor – an additional $55 a year. The levy would raise an estimated $13 million a year, said Patrick Flaherty, the vice chairman of the board of directors for the Association for Individual Development.
Flaherty said the agency’s board decided to pursue the petition drive because of the crisis in funding those with disabilities face for housing, transportation, jobs, job training and respite for families that take care of disabled people. Reductions in state and federal support and a growing population in need of help have created the crisis, he said.
“We have about 10,000 people in Kane County who need lifetime care that could be at Marklund or group homes, which we operate,” Flaherty said. “Another 10,000 need less intensive care, but nonetheless, need care with basic life services. We have almost 17,000 in special education in Kane County, and half of those will need services in the community once they graduate from school at age 21.”
Group homes placed within local communities are ideal, he said, because it keeps people with disabilities within neighborhoods, increases their independence and competence, and relieves their aging parents.
“We have an increasing number of parents who are getting into their 60s and 70s, who soon will no longer be able to take care of them at home,” Flaherty said. “As a community, we need to provide resources so those adult children can be transitioned into the community. … But the waiting list in Kane County is measured in years.”
If the measure is passed, the County Board chairman would appoint three members to a board to administer funds collected for services to the developmentally disabled.
“The appointed board would determine where to target money and what services to support,” Flaherty said. “But all of these funds would be devoted exclusively for the care of people with disabilities.”
Another way to get the question on the ballot is if the County Board puts it there, Flaherty said.
County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said if the agency brings the issue to the County Board, it would be given consideration. Lauzen said if the measure gets on the ballot and is passed by voters, then he would work to reduce the county’s levy by 0.1 percent to fulfill his election commitment of freezing the property tax levy.
“I am here to limit the size of government and property taxes as best I can,” Lauzen said.
Lauzen said he has not been given the petition to sign, and he is neutral on whether he would support it at this point.