GENEVA – Kane County could move in coming days to establish a countywide body to try to find ways to better distribute scarce resources to agencies in Kane that provide services to those with mental illness, substance abuse issues or developmental disabilities.
But just how the county reaches that point remains an open question, as some prominent county officials continue to express skepticism over a path suggested by Kane County’s Mental Health Advisory Committee.
Tuesday, representatives of the committee updated the County Board on its work.
William Beith, assistant Gilberts village administrator and mental health committee member, reiterated the panel’s three recommended goals.
Those include creating a central “web portal” through the county health department’s website to help county residents more easily locate services close to home; create a single countywide board, called a “708 board,” to oversee the distribution of funds for mental health services; and to create a committee to oversee the transition to such a countywide system.
A new countywide system would replace the current system under which portions of the county are served by township- or city-based 708 boards. Those boards were established by voters through local referendums, and include seven southern Kane townships and each of the Tri-Cities.
No 708 boards exist in the northern portions of the county.
Beith said establishing a countywide system is important to allow the county to save money and improve service by creating a more efficient distribution system.
And improving the mental health service system in Kane also could reduce the jail population, saving taxpayers money, Beith said.
County Board members appeared largely supportive of the concept of creating a more efficient system. But some, including Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, while supporting the concept of the countywide system, wondered whether there might be a better way than creating a new system in one fell swoop.
He suggested the county consider seeking to create a 708 board for the areas not now served by one, and then move to consolidate all the 708 boards at a later date.
The discussion comes as county voters prepare to vote next spring on a referendum that would create a new property tax levy to fund services specifically for county residents with developmental disabilities.
The new tax is estimated to increase the tax burden by about $100 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home.
The referendum was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative, after the County Board refused a request to put the question before voters. At that time, several board members used the work of the Mental Health Advisory Committee to justify their opposition to allowing voters the chance to decide the fate of the tax.
Recently, an effort spearheaded by Allen Skillicorn, an East Dundee village trustee and local conservative activist, has arisen to urge Kane County voters to oppose the referendum.
Skillicorn said his opposition is not based on opposing aid for those with disabilities.
Rather, he said he is questioning “the timing and the efficiency of creating another level of government.” He also said he believes the additional property tax burden would be too much for Kane County residents, who already pay among the highest property tax rates in the U.S.