The Oak Park Board of Trustees voted to continue funding Oak Park Township’s Youth Interventionist Program, which provides services for at-risk youth.
The decision came after a debate at the board meeting on July 9, where trustees Dan Moroney and Deno Andrews argued that the township should add the $61,200 to its own tax levy, rather than have the village contribute.
Both trustees voiced their support for the program but said it should be the township’s responsibility to fund it.
Andrews and Moroney voted against continuing funding the program, while the remaining trustees – Andrea Button, Jim Taglia, Simone Boutet, Bob Tucker and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb – voted to continue funding the program.
Oak Park has contributed to the program for over 20 years. The program aims to provide counseling and other services to Oak Park and River Forest youth struggling with substance abuse and other issues.
“The Youth Interventionist Program, for me, clearly falls within the umbrella of the township,” Moroney said.
He said that the township is in a better financial position than the village, with a pension program that is 95 percent funded and no debt. Moroney argued that the village is strapped with increasing pension costs for public safety workers, over which it has no control.
“Pension costs are decided by the state,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why our [police and fire] pensions are less than 50 percent funded, why we have over $110 million in debt, why our levy has gone up 23 percent in the past two years and why, as I’ve previously stated, our levy has gone up 160 percent since 1999.”
Trustee Bob Tucker voiced his support for helping to fund the program.
“It’s impactful. It’s important. It’s lasting work,” Tucker said. “I have no intention to yank the rug out from this program at this point.”
Village Attorney Paul Stephanides explained that the intergovernmental agreement with the township is for two years and includes a termination clause that can be put into effect on or before June 1, 2019, if trustees decide to cut funding for the program at a later date.
John Williams, who heads the program, said the service for youths is stronger when taxing bodies throughout the village contribute.
“I don’t know if anyone has a child that has been involved in gangs, drugs or violence, but when they are you realize there is no such thing as too many resources to address it,” he said. “If we do this by ourselves, we are not going to be effective. We need you.”
Trustees who did vote in favor of continued funding requested more information from the township on the successes of the program.
“I hear that it’s your position that there is an offset in costs, but it would be good to see that on paper and see some more metrics,” said Trustee Andrea Button.
The debate comes only a few weeks after the village of River Forest cut $16,000 in funding for the program.
“We believe it’s an established, mature program that’s been going on for 23 years, and it clearly now should be taken over by the township itself and budgeted by the township,” River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci said in late June.
“We also want to let the township run this program and not be burdened by another level of government oversight and government spending.”