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Kane committee hesitantly moves disability levy question

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 6:23 p.m. CDT

GENEVA – Kane County voters could have a chance in spring to raise their property taxes slightly to pay for local services to help their neighbors living with developmental disabilities.

Thursday, the County Board Public Health Committee voted with hesitation to recommend the full County Board place a referendum question on the April ballot.

The matter was brought to the County Board by a group called Show You Care Kane, a committee of county residents and representatives of local support groups providing care in Kane County.

Patrick Flaherty, an Aurora lawyer who serves on the board of Association for Individual Development, told the Public Health Committee that the matter is urgent.

He said local support groups have suffered in recent years from cuts in state social services funding.

The group has worked for months to assemble the 19,000 signatures it needs to place the matter on the ballot in April. But to date, it has collected about 12,000 signatures, with Monday's ballot filing deadline looming.

So, the group has turned to the County Board to place the referendum on the ballot.

Under the measure discussed Thursday, the referendum would ask county voters for permission to create a separate property tax levy of up to 0.1 percent specifically for such services.

Supporters estimate a 0.1 percent levy would raise about $13 million, while increasing property taxes by about $60 a year for the owner of a home valued about $182,000. It would be about $100 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home.

Lynn O'Shea, president of AID, said the money would go a long way because AID can provide care at an average cost of $14,500 a person a year, compared to an average annual state cost of $160,000.

"We are a good investment of local taxpayer money," O'Shea said.

County Board members were less sure, with several questioning whether taxpayers might already be too burdened, how the county would administer the money, and whether this is the right way to raise the money.

County Board member Melisa Taylor, R-Sugar Grove, sought to postpone a vote on the matter.

But Flaherty pointed out that, to place the matter on the April ballot, the County Board has until Jan. 22 to vote on the question. So, to postpone a vote would effectively kill the matter until 2014, forcing the agencies to endure a two-year delay before receiving funding from a levy.

Other County Board members, including Mike Donahue, R-Geneva, and Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin, urged the committee to allow the board to "continue the conversation" and allow voters to decide the matter.

"The question is, do you trust the voters?" Kenyon said.

Ultimately, the committee opted to move the matter forward, while urging the full County Board to take up the discussion.

The matter will next go to the County Board Executive Committee on Thursday.

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