Having lost thousands of dollars in state funding, a local social service agency is leading a charge to create a new tax in Kane County to help area residents who have developmental disabilities.
Patrick Flaherty, the vice chairman of the Association for Individual Development, told members of the county board's Public Health Committee on Tuesday there are at least a half dozen local agencies serving nearly 40,000 county residents with some form of developmental disability. About 10,000 of those residents require lifelong care. And nearly 17,000 schoolchildren in special education programs will end up relying on some form of community care for continued support when they exit the school system.
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Flaherty said not all of those kids have families who can or will support them. At age 21, even disabled youths stop being the legal responsibility of their parents, Flaherty said.
"The unlucky ones are the ones who don't have family, where the money is insufficient to reach them," Flaherty said. "They get warehoused in institutions."
Organizations like AID, Easter Seals and the DayOne Network try to fight against that and provide job placement training so disabled residents can lead productive lives and have a sense of pride, Flaherty said.
"This network of care organizations is in jeopardy," he said. "State and federal funding is drastically reduced. Organizations that provide that care are having to cut services, cut employees, and with the increasing number of children coming into the system, the pressure is even greater."
Flaherty plans to join with the other social service agencies to provide a solution to the problem. It may appear on local ballots as soon as spring.
The agencies want the county board to place a referendum on the ballot to create a new, countywide tax levy. The levy would increase the county portion of the property tax bill by about $52 for the owner of a home with a market value of $200,000. Such a levy is expected to generate about $13 million for the social service agencies that work with Kane County's disabled population.
If residents vote against the levy, the result will likely be many disabled residents will become homeless and/or jobless, Flaherty said.
"The true heart of the community is measured by how well it takes care of its most vulnerable residents," Flaherty said. "All we ask is that you stand up and you do the right thing."
Public Health Committee members were not asked to give an opinion or vote on the possible referendum and resulting new tax levy. That request will likely come after the November election when a new county board is seated.