Elgin council to consider first riverboat grant recipients
The Elgin City Council is expected to approve funding to local nonprofits in its first year distributing riverboat funds as grants rather than service agreements.
During its 2012 budget discussions, the city council eliminated contracts with more than a dozen organizations but allocated $250,000 in grants. The riverboat fund is made up of local taxes collected from Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino -- taxes that have fallen to $14.7 million in 2011 from almost $27 million in 2008, according to the city's financial plan.
Mayor David Kaptain and Councilman John Steffen examined the 21 applications for grant funding and will recommend the entire council awards money to 13 organizations during Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting.
Every group that was eligible for the grant received some funding, ranging from $3,810 to the Youth Leadership Academy to $115,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin. Neighborhood Housing Services of the Fox Valley also is being recommended for a significant amount of money -- $35,000.
The recipients of the two largest grant amounts were given preference this year because city officials recognized they were counting on the money in 2012 as part of a budget that factored in prior riverboat contracts.
"It got to be an entitlement," Kaptain said. "That's what part of the change here is."
Next year Kaptain expects the grants to be much more competitive. He said the council may lift the $5,000 limit on grant applications that was in place for groups besides the Boys and Girls Club and NHS.
Some groups that applied for the riverboat grants were denied because they received Community Development Block Grant money instead. The council voted in February to give PADS $50,000 in block grant money, for example, and will deny its request for almost $22,000 from the riverboat fund.
Kaptain said the city has focused on spending block grant money for mostly capital expenses rather than supplementing operating expenses for local agencies. He said the riverboat grant can fill the gap and pay for nonprofits' standard programming.
"We're going to try to offer these things not as competing grants but working together to provide the basic needs of the community," Kaptain said.
And the beauty of the new grant pool rather than contracts with individual organizations, according to Kaptain, means groups like The Literacy Connection, VNA Health Center and Centro de Información have access to funding for the first time.
"This opens it up to everybody," he said.
Jaime García, executive director of Centro de Información, said the $3,815 recommended grant will be a blessing to the immigrant-focused information agency.
"We provide a number of services that if we were not available, there would be nowhere else for these people to go to except maybe city hall," García said.
The council will take a preliminary vote on the grant awards Wednesday and officially approve them during the following city council meeting.