Expect changes for Elgin's Riverboat Fund use
The Riverboat Fund -- made up of fees collected from the Grand Victoria Casino -- is set to see some major changes in Elgin's 2012 budget.
Council members discussed their options during a special committee meeting Wednesday, especially concerning a plan to eliminate funding to outside agencies and change the policy that outlines how to use the funds.
Councilman John Steffen recommended giving $50,000 extra to the Cultural Arts Commission to offset proposed cuts to Hamilton Wings, Children's Theatre of Elgin and Elgin Symphony Orchestra.
Money for social service organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Renz Addiction Center will be partially made up by $150,000 in additional funding in Community Development Block Grants.
"I'm trying to make sure the arts organizations would have the opportunity to be funded," Steffen said. Councilman Robert Gilliam advocated keeping human services in the funding discussion, even if they get money from new taxes. Though Councilman John Prigge said he has heard residents saying government shouldn't fund nonprofits, Gilliam said many who have given to social support programs are now on the receiving end, right when governments are cutting contributions.
"This is probably the most important time to help people," Gilliam said. "When they're down and out."
Council members also discussed the riverboat policy itself, which originally said the fund should be used to pay for capital and one-time expenditures. Several of the council members expressed concern with scrapping the policy altogether but City Manager Sean Stegall said, in spirit, it has been violated for years. He pointed to police car and fire engine purchases out of the Riverboat Fund as an example.
Stegall's recommended budget includes a transfer of $2 million from the Riverboat Fund to the General Fund to cover operating expenses, a firm step away from the policy.
"It's financially consistent with something that we've been doing for a long time and I just felt it was time to acknowledge it," Stegall said.
Details of the budget and the discussion process are available at cityofelgin.org/2012budget.