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Advocates for disabled seek support in Geneva

GENEVA – Advocates for adults with disabilities said they have not collected enough signatures to put a measure on the April 9 ballot seeking voter support for a 0.1 percent tax levy increase.

The levy is to raise money annually to meet the needs of developmentally disabled adults in Kane County, especially housing, advocates say.

So they will make their case before a special meeting of the Public Health Committee at 9 a.m. Thursday at Building A of the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva.

If not by petition, the law allows the County Board to put the measure on the ballot, said Patrick Flaherty, vice chairman of the board of directors for the Association for Individual Development.

“I don’t believe we will have the required number of signatures,” Flaherty said. “Which is why we have approached the County Board to put it on the ballot by means of resolution.”

The deadline to do that is Jan. 22, he said.

The first step is to go to the Public Health Committee, and if it passes there, it will go to the Executive Committee on Jan. 10 and then the full County Board on Jan. 15.

Flaherty said the agency’s board decided to pursue a 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.

Although advocates initially said they needed 20,000 signatures, Flaherty said they actually needed 10 percent of the number of ballots cast for president in November, about 18,000.

But Flaherty expects to have about 12,000 signatures once all the petitions are turned in today – not enough to get on the ballot.

The 0.1 percent levy 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.

Flaherty said the levy increase would raise an estimated $13 million a year to meet housing and other needs for people with developmental disabilities. If voters approve, the County Board chairman would appoint a three-person board to administer the funds.

Flaherty said Kane County has about 10,000 people who need lifetime care at facilities such as Marklund or group homes. Another 10,000 need assistance with basic life services.

The county also has 17,000 residents in special education who will be in the community and need adult services once they graduate, Flaherty said.

“I’ll be speaking, and maybe one or two other people will be speaking, in support of this at the meeting,” Flaherty said. “We hope to have supporters generally, families that are in need of services and families receiving services.”

County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen has said he is neutral on the issue. But Lauzen has said if the measure is passed by voters, he would work to reduce the county’s levy by 0.1 percent to fulfill his election commitment of freezing the property tax levy.

“We are optimistic,” Flaherty said.

“We think that we’ll receive a fair hearing, and that is all Chairman Lauzen promised us. He has not expressed an opinion. He had assured us we will have an opportunity to be heard. That is a step in the right direction. … We are hopeful we will have the opportunity to make our case to the public.”

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