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posted: 6/20/2012 3:52 PM

Elgin Township grants offer stability to local agencies

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In a time when grant opportunities are becoming more and more scarce, Elgin Township has decided to be a stable funding source for local agencies.

The township first offered grants to social service agencies in 2004 -- it awarded $99,000. The next year it added $13,000 to distribute among local organizations for youth programming.

And since then funding levels have grown substantially larger. This year township board members distributed $75,000 for youth programming and have $232,000 budgeted for social service agencies, to which grants will be distributed in December.

"The board feels like that is a very important expenditure for a community," said Annette Miller, township supervisor. "When we sit down to do our budgets, we make sure that we can afford to put money in those two line items to help our residents and help our community."

The social service grants started out as a way to fund particular projects but have expanded, giving agencies a chance to apply for funding to fill budget holes and cover operating expenses.

Organizations that have benefited from the grants over the years include the YWCA, Well Child Center, Salvation Army, Renz Center, Larkin Center, Ecker Center, Crisis Center and Administer Justice.

The Literacy Connection, Boys and Girls Club of Elgin, Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association and Girl Scouts are among the organizations that have received youth programming monies.

Most of the money Elgin Township uses comes from property taxes. Miller said owning the township offices helps an overall goal to keep costs down. The township levy increase is capped at 5 percent, by law, but Miller said it has historically risen by just 1 to 3 percent each year. The most recent levy was for $1.3 million -- a 1 percent increase over the year before.

Throughout the recession, township board members have not joined other funding entities in cutting grants to minimize expenses.

Part of the grant application process includes a look at the percentage of an organization's budget that is supposed to be covered by state funding. The board has recognized the hardship caused by late payments and cuts from the state and worked to counteract it.

"It has become a result of the nonfunding from the state that we're trying to help our social service agencies as much as we can," Miller said. "Obviously we're not going to make up that difference that they're getting now but at least it's something."

Miller said the board plans to keep awarding grants to agencies positively benefiting Elgin Township residents as long as it can.

Applications for the next round of social service funding should be available in September with the youth programming grant cycle set for spring.

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