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posted: 7/16/2012 5:08 PM

Elgin mayor: Use alcohol tax to pay for drug program, roadside safety

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  • David Kaptain

      David Kaptain

 

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain's vision for the city is to tie specific revenue streams to targeted projects to provide greater grovernment accountability.

In that vein, he has set his sights on the new alcoholic beverage tax as a revenue source for drug abuse prevention and extra roadside safety checks.

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Kaptain posed the option to his fellow council members during a liquor commission meeting and expects a more in-depth discussion next month.

The commission, made up of all seven council members, has historically responded to liquor license violations without any proactive initiatives.

"Instead of just enforcement, should we move beyond what our normal role has been?" Kaptain asked.

A 3-percent tax on alcoholic beverages is expected to generate $500,000 in the second half of 2012 and $1 million each year after that. The tax took effect July 1.

In light of a July 11 methamphetamine bust in which a Rockford man faces charges of possession of a pound of the drug, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda is looking to expand his department's education efforts.

Kaptain said he would support using at least a portion of the alcoholic beverage tax revenue for drug abuse prevention beyond Swoboda's current budget.

Already prevention is a core component of Elgin's policing strategy -- balancing the proactive approach with enforcement and more reactive responses.

"I would rather spend all of our money on preventing people from making bad choices and then not have to have the officers be out there to make the arrests," Swoboda said. "Obviously, that's not the society we live in."

Outreach plans include talking to students, teachers and parents through school liaison officers, speaking at community meetings or church events and holding information sessions to make people aware of the problem and where they can go for help.

Swoboda said heroin use has been on the rise in the area in the past few years and the potential addition of a market for crystal meth could be "disastrous."

Even before the liquor commission meets Aug. 8, the police department will be strategizing education efforts. Swoboda said drug awareness and prevention will be a focus whether there are additional resources for it or not.

The alcoholic beverage tax was implemented as a way to close the city's structural deficit, which required a long-term solution rather than a one-time influx of cash. The liquor commission cut liquor license fees in half this year to help cushion the burden on affected businesses.

Kaptain's other idea for the tax revenue -- funding extra roadside safety checks -- would complement initiatives made possible by federal grants, usually around holidays.

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