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updated: 9/3/2014 5:41 PM

Kane Co. sticks with riverboat reductions in first test

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It would have been easy for Kane County Board members to make just one, small exception Wednesday to their plan to scale back reliance on riverboat gambling proceeds for internal and external grants.

A late plea by board member Theresa Barreiro asked for $15,000 to fund salaries and administrative expenses for the Joseph Corporation. The Aurora-based not-for-profit helps educate the community about homeownership and has provided residents foreclosure prevention counseling through the county's foreclosure prevention task force. The company asked for a $75,000 grant.

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But several board members already have signed on to a plan to reduce grants to both internal departments and external agencies by 8.2 percent this year in response to a dwindling share of profits from the Grand Victoria Riverboat in Elgin. And the general policy for riverboat funds is to not fund ongoing operational expenses.

"We never want to be (funding) the agency that, if we didn't fund them, the agency couldn't exist," Riverboat Committee Chairman John Hoscheit said. "We don't want to be the sole source of their funding. The understanding here is that if we don't provide (Joseph Corporation) funding, they could continue to do business."

Barreiro, from Aurora, didn't dispute that. However, she pointed to several other grants, such as the 4-H program through the University of Illinois extension and Kane County's Court Appointed Special Advocates program where money for salaries is also part of the grant. She said, to her, foreclosure assistance is more of a priority than providing $61,250 to Batavia for Main Street beautification projects.

"Batavia has already done great improvements," Barreiro said. "That's a huge amount going to them. I just want to make it more fair. It's not a secret that foreclosure is a favorite topic of mine to try and fix."

Barreiro is the chairman of the county's foreclosure task force.

Hoscheit suggested it would be possible to take some funding, perhaps $15,000, from the riverboat reserve fund if the board members agreed giving some money to the Joseph Corporation was critical.

Board member Kurt Kojzarek spoke for the majority of the committee when he said dipping into the reserves now is not a precedent he's interested in setting.

"We, as a (riverboat) committee, have just decided on a funding program for the next 10 years or so," he said. "This is the first opportunity we have to follow that plan. I'm not going against, or going back on that the first opportunity I have."

With that in mind, the executive committee agreed in a 6 to 5 vote to support a second option put on the table by Hoscheit. The plan took $7,500 of funding from the Batavia Main Street grant and $7,500 from a $45,625 grant to build a new park in a neighborhood near Aurora University to fund a $15,000 grant for the Joseph Corporation.

The additional grant, the other $1 million of external grants and the $4 million worth of grants to fund internal county agencies and projects now go to the full county board for a final vote.

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