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Village of River Forest ends funding for township youth intervention program

Pioneer Press Newspapers - 7/8/2018

July 07--After more than two decades, the village of River Forest has ended its financial contributions to Oak Park & River Forest Township's youth intervention program.

The program's mission is to intervene in the lives of school-age youth who are involved with violence, drug and/or alcohol use or abuse, or gang activity, officials said. According to Village Administrator Eric Palm, the plan to end support for the program was an administrative decision, though he said he did poll village trustees before finalizing it.

"We still believe in the program," Palm said. "At this time, we feel it should be funded under the township's tax levy for youth services."

Palm said an existing two-year funding agreement between the village and township expired on June 30. In its 2017-18 budget, the village contributed $15,945 toward the program, Palm said.

River Forest Township Supervisor Carla Sloan said the decision came as a surprise to her office, as she was hopeful to attend a village board meeting to discuss its importance with trustees.

"I had assumed it was going to be voted on in a public meeting, as with the other taxing bodies," Sloan said. "[Not voting] was news to me because it had always been a vote and all the taxing bodies had put it on an agenda."

Sloan confirmed the program will continue and said the township is looking at additional ways to make up for the lost revenue.

"The program will absolutely continue, and we will continue to work closely with the River Forest police as we've always done," Sloan said. "The program requires close work with our local police. We are able to make up about 30 percent of the shortfall from the village of River Forest, and we'll seek funding from outside sources. It may involve some grant writing or seeking donations, and we're prepared to do that."

When the program was first created, Sloan said, all 11 taxing bodies in Oak Park and River Forest entered into an intergovernmental agreement to fund its operations. Typically, each taxing body would enter into a two-year funding agreement with the township.

"It was really a response to a significant increase in gang violence that was happening around the communities of Oak Park and River Forest," Sloan said. "It was really a response to say we have a problem related to gangs, drugs and violence, and we need to hit the problem head-on in a proactive way. We had people working more proactively with our youth and at-risk youth. It's really about trying to get our kids through high school and out of gangs and away from crime."

The 10 other taxing bodies that provide funds for the program include both Oak Park and River Forest townships, the village of Oak Park, two park districts, two libraries and three school districts. Sloan said River Forest Township, the River Forest Public Library, the River Forest Park District and School District 90 have all re-committed to funding the program.

The Oak Park Village Board is expected to discuss its contribution to the program at its July 9 meeting. According to the agenda, trustees could vote on a $60,000 contribution for 2018-19, and a $61,200 contribution for the 2019-20 fiscal year.



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