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posted: 8/23/2014 7:00 AM

Kane County to rely less on riverboat money

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  • The profit margin for the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin continues to shrink amid increased competition.

       The profit margin for the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin continues to shrink amid increased competition.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer, 2011

 
 

Kane County Board members showed they'll take a precise look at the reliance of internal programs on riverboat gambling proceeds Friday afternoon even as Riverboat Committee members doled out more than $1 million in grants.

The current grant cycle might be the last time local nonprofits and municipalities compete for a seven-figure pool of grant money.

The profit margin for the Grand Victoria riverboat in Elgin continues to shrink as Illinois introduces more casinos and video gambling outlets. Fearing a vanishing revenue stream, county board members have committed to trim grants, both internal and external, by 8.2 percent in 2015.

For internal grants, that process starts now as county board members have already started forming the 2015 budget. An 8.2 percent cut for internal grants means trimming about $300,000 from the $4.3 million county departments received this year. County staff members presented a list of requests Friday that represented some departments voluntarily cutting their annual requests. Departments that didn't volunteer received an 8.2 percent cut across the board in their riverboat requests.

But Riverboat Committee Chairman John Hoscheit and county board Chairman Chris Lauzen said they weren't sure it was a good idea to view the county's farmland preservation and tuition reimbursement programs as having the same importance as drug court and domestic violence programs.

Hoscheit said that's a policy decision that a greater portion of the county board should decide.

"That's an internal discussion that has to occur with the powers that be," Hoscheit said.

Lauzen said he would be glad to take a second look at the grants and form a priority list either with the Finance Committee or the assistance of the finance department, auditor and county treasurer.

Meanwhile, the committee tentatively agreed only $918,000 will be available for external grants in 2015. As it stands, the committee is recommending funding for only 40 of the 70 applications it received. Almost none of the requesting agencies will receive the full amount requested.

Notable funding decisions made by the committee included a last-minute $12,000 increase to funding for the Elgin History Museum, elimination of any funding for the Town and Country Library District and more than $45,000 in funding given to the SciTech Museum in Aurora. The executive director of the museum is Arlene Hawks, the wife of Lauzen's close adviser Dick Hawks.

The funding recommendations will now go to the county board's Executive Committee before a vote by the full county board.

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