Ballot initiative for disability tax files 34,260 signatures

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 2:00 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – An entourage of about 20 supporters delivered petitions bearing 34,260 signatures to Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham on Wednesday, securing a spot on the March 18 primary ballot asking voters to levy a 0.1 percent property tax to fund services for people 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.

“It was the largest ever turned in to me,” Cunningham said.

Show You Care Kane spearheaded the petition drive a year ago after Kane County officials would not put the question on the ballot.

The tax would raise about $13 million to be administered by a disabilities board for housing, transportation, jobs and job training among other services for people with disabilities.

Chris Morris of Geneva, who has two adult daughters with disabilities, said the next step is voter education and awareness “and to get folks out to come and vote.”

“I think it was an amazing feat,” Morris said. “We identified there is a need. The numbers and signatures represent the willingness of the community to support the initiate the referendum.”

Morris herself gathered some of the signatures, including some at an annual Thanksgiving run in Batavia.

“I was out in the rain last November and the last primary getting signatures,” Morris said. “I stood on corners and during the race in Batavia Thanksgiving morning. I carried them around in my car for months.”

Lynn O’Shea, president of Association for Individual Development, which serves more than 5,000 clients with developmental disabilities at more than 36 locations, said the need for services is growing. The organization employs more than 400 to provide services.

AID took the lead in forming Show You Care Kane for the Developmentally Disabled to work on getting a referendum approved.

“We have 1,300 people on a waiting list [for housing], and every year more kids come out of special education,” O’Shea said. “There are 16,000 kids k-12 in special ed, and they keep coming. If we don’t do something about it, who will? If we don’t do something now, we’re in trouble.”

Allen Skillicorn, an East Dundee trustee and anti-tax activist, criticized the organization for hiring a company, National Petition Management of Brighton, Mich., to help in collecting signatures.

“AID is funding this, and it’s troubling,” Skillicorn said. 

But O’Shea said unpaid volunteers collected 22,400 signatures, more than the 18,900 minimum to get on the ballot.

The petition management company was hired to finish collecting the rest of the signatures to make sure they had enough if there was a challenge.

“We are not politicians. We’ve never done this before,” O’Shea said. “The IRS allows us to spend money to get a ballot initiative that will benefit our clients. And that is what we did – and the IRS approved it. We’re doing everything by the book.”

Skillicorn also criticized Show You Care Kane for a campaign complaint by the Illinois State Board of Elections, because it was late in filing quarterly reports, resulting in a $2,150 fine.

Tom Newman, a hearing officer for the state board of elections, said Show You Care Kane appealed and did not have to pay it.

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