Elgin wants bigger share of riverboat grants
As Kane County officials prepare to dole out about $1.1 million of its share of riverboat gambling proceeds, Elgin officials are voicing confusion about why their share of the money is coming up lemons.
The county typically gives out about $1 million in riverboat money through a competitive grant application to various agencies and projects throughout the county every year.
All of that money comes from the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.
The Hollywood Casino in Aurora does not pay into the grant pool.
Yet, several of the projects that receive funding in many years are in or near Aurora, including this year's pool of recipients.
Indeed, about 63 percent of this year's grants will go to the southern end of the county.
"It seems like it's very overbalanced," Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain said. "Aurora has a riverboat. Why is more money going down there than up this way? We pay for the streets, the lights and all the things that are ancillary to the riverboat in Elgin. I think there should be some discussion about this."
Kane County Board member John Hoscheit has led the committee that reviews the grant applications for many years. He said the committee is only concerned with the money being spent in the county, irrespective of geography.
"The original agreement with the Grand Victoria didn't say we couldn't give grants to Aurora," Hoscheit said. "It said the county as a whole, and that's how we look at it. We don't slot numbers from the north to the south. This year, there was a shortage of applications from the north end."
Kaptain said the shortage of applications may be due to a history of being rejected.
Or, it may be because the county isn't doing a good enough job letting people in the north end of the county know that the money is available.
"We understand the riverboat's circumstances have changed in these tough times and with increased competition," Kaptain said.
"So we're going to take another look at our agreement with them. But I think it's time we also look at the riverboat grants."
Hoscheit said the county will make a more intense effort in the north end, especially Elgin, to make people aware of the riverboat grants next year.
"As one person, I think we've done a pretty good job at disbursing the funds," Hoscheit said.
The county board will take a final vote on the grant allocations next Tuesday. The $1.1 million being awarded to 40 recipients is actually more than the county received into the pool of funds for external grants. It will use an existing fund balance, including nearly $33,000 not spent last year by grant recipients, to make up the difference.
The top five grant recipients for 2013 are:
1. Fox River Study Group -- $100,000 for a water quality improvement plan.
2. University of Illinois Extension -- $98,000 for education, nutrition and 4-H.
3. Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry -- $75,000 for building expansion.
4. City of St. Charles -- $65,000 for a green infrastructure project along the Fox River.
5. Batavia Parks Foundation, CASA Kane County, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Joseph Corp. and the Northern Illinois Food Bank will each receive $50,000 for various projects.