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Funding uncertain for environmental group

A group of volunteers pose during Make A Difference Day in 2011. (Provided photo)

A group of volunteers pose during Make A Difference Day in 2011. (Provided photo)

A well-known environmental advocacy group could face staff and program cuts if DuPage County reduces funding, officials said this week.

DuPage County’s current $155,750 contract with School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, or SCARCE, ends June 30, and the county board has not set aside funding for the group beyond that date, County Board spokeswoman Johnna Kelly this week.

The contract helps pay for recycling and composting training and workshops in schools and businesses across the county, salaries for the group’s three full-time employees and about half the $4,000 per month rent for its office and warehouse space in Glen Ellyn, said Kay McKeen, who founded SCARCE in 1990.

Without county funding, which accounts for more than 75 percent of the group’s total budget, “I’ll have to let everybody go,” McKeen said. The hundreds of schools and businesses reached by the group’s education teams would be cut dramatically, McKeen said.

“We’re trying to regroup and rethink,” McKeen said. “We’re sad.”

Among its activities, the group teaches area schools and businesses how to be environmentally responsible, often saving money on electric bills, and presenting them with Earth flags, McKeen said. Other projects include school and teacher workshops about composting, recycling, pollution and water conservation.

Jeff Redick, chairman of the county environmental committee, did not return emails or a phone message seeking comment. Redick told the environmental committee in March “other avenues are being explored for the funding of the SCARCE program,” according to meeting minutes.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin also did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

The program faced a similar issue in November, as the county board tabulated its annual budget and Redick proposed cutting funding to the group by more than half, according to minutes from the Nov. 22 meeting. But board member Donald Puchalski, of Addison, made a motion to restore the group funding in full, which county board members voted 10-8 to approve, according to the minutes.

The county’s budget year doesn’t end until Nov. 30, but funding for SCARCE will end June 30 under the current budget.

Puchalski said he plans to propose an amendment or motion to give the group its necessary funding until the end of November.

“I was telling Kay (McKeen) the best way to get support its to start showing other board members all that you do,” Puchalski said.

Reached by phone this week, environmental committee member and District 6 representative Robert Larsen, of Warrenville, said “everybody respects and appreciates the work they do but the question is are there ways we can do it more economically?”

The next county board meeting is scheduled for May 8.

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