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Shields Township Trims Expenditures in Approving 2011-12 Budget

Community outreach programs like food pantry, seniors remain intact.

The Board adopted its 2011-12 budget Thursday night that reflects a 32 percent drop in expenditures over the previous three fiscal years.

Expenditures for the 2011-12 fiscal year are budgeted at $915,591, compared to the $1.35 million the township spent in 2008-08.

“As a board we have all been committed to being more fiscally responsible,“ said Township Supervisor Gale Strenger Wayne. “One way we have gone about that is to reduce the budget - to reduce the spending side.”

Strenger Wayne said the reductions over the years largely came in the form of cutting out community outreach grants the township used to support, including college scholarships and a coat drive.

The township’s community outreach budget is projected to be $70,500 for 2011-12, compared to $189,958 in 2008-09.

“There are no other neighboring townships that don’t do grants,” said Strenger Wayne, adding she hasn’t agreed with the board’s stance on this drop in funding over the years. “I can see the value of investing in the community as a payback.”

What is still included in the community outreach budget, Strenger Wayne noted, is the food pantry, with a projected $5,500 in expenditures. Since 2002, the township food pantry has fed more than 20,000 people. Strenger Wayne announced at the meeting Thursday night that a couple of community groups held food drives this month for the food pantry to help address the need.

The township also budgets money - $30,350 next year - for its general assistance fund, which is a state-required program that townships provide. Strenger Wayne said the general assistance program helps, for example, single, childless individuals who have next to zero income - including individuals who have used up their 99 weeks of unemployment.

Strenger Wayne noted that it’s not just the northern part of her township that is seeing such hardship. Shields Township includes half of North Chicago, Lake Forest to Route 60 and all of Lake Bluff.

“I’ve seen more classmates in here than I would have believed,” said Strenger Wayne, who was born and raised in Lake Forest.

Townships are also required to assess property and take care of roads and bridges in unincorporated areas, Strenger Wayne said. Generally the township’s portion of a homeowner’s property tax bill is about 1 percent, she said.

About 98 percent of the township’s revenues come from property taxes. Of the $965,722 in total projected revenues for 2011-12, $917,422 of that was originally slated to come from local property taxes.

At the board’s meeting Thursday night, however, trustees voted unanimously to abate a portion of that original levy. The township will levy $799,000 in property taxes, making up the $118,422 with reserve funds.

Trustee Laura Carney said the township has about $1 million in reserves, or 14 to 15 months worth, which is well beyond the three to six months of reserves recommended by the Illinois Comptroller’s Office.

“I’m very much in favor of this,” Carney said of using some reserves in lieu of levying a higher property tax amount.

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