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Kane committee recommends $4 million in riverboat-funded projects

GENEVA – Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen’s new community outreach program could draw its funding next year from riverboat casino money, along with millions of dollars of other county government projects.

The Kane County Board’s Riverboat Grant Committee on Tuesday recommended the County Board consider more than $4 million in funding for various county projects out of Kane’s special riverboat fund in 2014.

The money will flow from Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino, which annually pays 7.5 percent of its net operating income to the county, under the terms of a longstanding agreement between the county and casino operators.

The county traditionally has divided the money among projects run by the county and projects administered by outside charitable organizations.

This year, the county received about $4.4 million from the riverboat casino. However, in 2014, the county expects to receive only about $3.94 million.

Riverboat committee chairman and County Board member John Hoscheit, R-St. Charles, said the county in 2014 again could dip into millions of dollars leftover from previous years’ riverboat grants to cover the shortfall, as it did in 2013.

“We have money in the fund balance to continue at the same level,” Hoscheit said. “But after three or four years of doing that, and we’ll have a problem to deal with.”

In years past, the committee had not begun discussing disbursements from the riverboat fund until the spring in which the money was paid by the casino. But Hoscheit said scheduling internal spending will help the county get a better read on its budget this fall.

The county again will decide next spring which external projects will receive a share of $1 million in available funding. Some of the internal projects the committee recommended the County Board consider funding in 2014 out of the riverboat fund include, among others:

• $600,000 for farmland preservation purchases;

• $566,000 for the county’s drug court;

• $493,000 for the county’s Child Advocacy Center, which assists children who have been victims of crime; 

• $477,000 for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s domestic violence unit; 

• $304,000 for stormwater drainage improvements; and

• $50,000 for work to demolish condemned structures.

Lauzen asked the committee to also include funding for his community outreach program.

The County Board last month authorized Lauzen to hire an outreach coordinator and an assistant. Lauzen said the program, which would center on social media platforms, would make the county more inviting for residents and businesses.

Lauzen asked the County Board on Tuesday to spend $81,000 of the riverboat money on the program.

Committee members said they supported the program, but questioned why the program was not being paid for out of the county’s regular budget.

The riverboat funding requests will move next to other County Board committees for further consideration. 

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