PACE programs still up in the air for Elgin budget

 
 
Updated 11/29/2011 5:51 PM

The first budget proposal Elgin City Council members considered included more than $300,000 worth of cuts to social service and arts organizations, PACE programs and youth sports grants.

The latest version addressed some community and council concerns, but as Councilman John Steffen pointed out during Monday's budget discussion, two PACE programs remain unfunded.

 

The Ride in Kane program, to which Elgin contributed $63,100 in 2011, is for people with disabilities or who are older than 65. They can call ahead to schedule rides throughout the county for $3 to cover the first five miles and $1.50 per mile thereafter.

PACE spokesman Patrick Wilmot said no decision has been made about what to do with the program if Elgin does not contribute its portion. Other participating entities are Aurora, Batavia, Dundee and St. Charles townships as well as the cities and villages of Batavia, St. Charles, South Elgin and Geneva. The Association for Individual Development is the final partner for the program.

Wilmot said all of the participating agencies and communities would need to discuss the program's future without Elgin's support.

"It's everyone's hope that we can come up with some type of solution that will have a minimal impact on the people who need to use the service," Wilmot said.

While residents are only eligible for the Ride in Kane service if they live in participating communities, Wilmot said he did not know if Elgin residents would become ineligible without the city's funding contribution.

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Lynn O'Shea, president of AID and chairwoman of the Kane County Paratransit Coordinating Council, spoke out against the proposed cuts in a message to council members. She said the program provided more than 100,000 trips in Kane County last year -- 56 percent to get people to work. She added that 1,281 Elgin residents used the service last year for almost 27,000 individual trips.

O'Shea said the loss of the program would create "extraordinary hardships" on those who use the service.

"Not only will current riders be unable to travel to work, medical care or other services, but the city will lose the matching funds currently supporting more than half of the cost of this much needed transportation service," O'Shea said.

What fare costs do not cover, participating communities and agencies do with matching grants available from the federal government and rider subsidies from Kane County, according to O'Shea.

During Monday's council discussion, Councilman Richard Dunne said he spoke with Elgin taxi drivers who said the average cab fare across the city is $9.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There is still a fairly economical system out there," Dunne said. "It's not like we'll be leaving them totally in the lurch."

Elgin contributed $22,400 to PACE Route 554 in 2011 -- that amount also would shrink to zero under the proposed budget. That route is partially paid for by Hanover Park, Streamwood, Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg.

Wilmot said PACE expanded 554 service in August and also decreased the contribution required of participating communities without reducing service.

As with Ride in Kane, all of the community partners would have to come together to decide the future of Elgin riders if the city no longer contributes.

Elgin Councilman John Prigge questioned whether the city should be in the business of transportation, helping residents leave the city for places like Woodfield Shopping Center.

The council will discuss the budget Wednesday for the last time before holding public hearings and approving a document Dec. 23.

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