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From the community

Seniors Continue to Press for Social Services

At Coffee with the Council on Saturday, October 16, Downers Grove Council members found themselves facing a packed room, many of whom raised their hands when Mayor Ron Sandack asked who in the audience had been to a previous budget meeting. With over 50 residents in attendance, plus 5 Council members and Village staff, the conference room at the new firehouse on Main Street was standing room only. Most residents were there because of the proposed cuts in social services and community grants, and they were eager to share their concerns.

“Everyone has services that are important to them.” Mayor Ron Sandack told the assembled group. “Our core charter is Police, Fire and Public Works. There are a myriad of other good services we could fund. Our duty is to our charter, and we have to be circumspect, [because] we can’t fund everything.” It was a statement he would echo again and again through the meeting.

Marilyn Krolak, Executive Director of the Dupage Senior Citizens Council (DSCC) reminded the council that DSCC is “more than Meals on Wheels.” Two weeks earlier, she said, a senior had fallen and a DSCC volunteer, conducting their daily well-being check, discovered the senior and was able to contact the family for assistance. “It saved [the Village] a paramedic call.” Krolak said.

Lorie Schmitz, a social worker at Peace Memorial Manor in Downers Grove, came to argue against cutting taxi subsidies, telling Council members, “My seniors struggle everyday. Many of them live on $500 to $600 a month. I’m talking about basic survival. Unless you’re living on…next to nothing, you don’t know or understand.”

Pat Hurley, a resident at Immanuel Residences who has been outspoken in her protests against the proposed taxi subsidy cuts asked Sandack, “You’re going to get us there, but you can’t get us back?” Hurley added, “It’s not you spending the money [that's the problem], it’s how you’re spending the money.”

“Can the village taxpayer fund all that [social services]?” Sandack asked Hurley, adding, “The balance between taxing and spending is complex. People pay a lot [of taxes] now, and asking them to pay more makes them aggravated.” Still, he underlined the difference between what property taxes bring in, and what the core services cost the Village, noting the $18 million gap.

Several residents from the southern end of the Village came to voice their continued difficulties with flooding on Robey Avenue and Valleyview Drive. Village Manager David Fieldman told the residents from that area that there was a proposed schedule for correcting the issues caused by the pond and fixing the streets.

Downers Grove Watch member Gordan Goodman suggested the village reduce the financial reserves from 91 days to 88 days. “The [current] policy is good, and implementation is excellent, ” he said. However, he recommended that the village take money from the reserves and “release more funds to support these popular programs.”

Residents who brought up the suggestion of requiring vehicle stickers to raise revenue and pay for social services learned that implementing such a program would require a referendum. One resident said he believed it would help take the burden off homeowners, telling the council that while there are approximately 18,000 homes in Downers Grove, there are 39,984 vehicles registered to residents in Downers Grove.

Sandack reminded the group the village portion of their property taxes is “near the lower end compared to neighboring towns” asking residents to remember that “the village only gets 10% [of the tax bill]“. Barnett reminded the audience, “Do not get lost that this is still a $1mm deficit budget even with the [proposed] $50 property tax increase.”

Schmitz told the <em>Chronicle</em> that the mayor’s response was disappointing. “The seniors stand to lose $40 a month in income. They are as resourceful as they can be; they need to be.” Schmitz continued, “These programs are more important than people realize. They (the council members) are out of touch. They don’t get it. I am concerned for my people. Paying for these programs would cost the average homeowner [an extra] $2 a year. The seniors, many of whom live in subsidized housing, are losing $40 a month that they need to get around, to go to the doctor’s and pick up prescriptions. They’ve given to the community and we need to give back. I know our community is struggling, but this is going to be devastating to a group of our population, and I think we need to listen to them.”

The next budget meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 20, immediately after the regular Village Council meeting.

 

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