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State Budget Cuts Discussed at Monday Forum in Oswego

Jul 02, 2015 03:20PM ● By Steven Jack

Oswego Village President Gail Johnson, left, joins State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, right, at a community meeting at Oswego East High School on June 29.

On Monday, in a room filled with residents and community members, State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit hosted a community meeting to discuss the impact of the budget impasse in Springfield and the severe proposed cuts offered by the Governor. 
“Severe cuts to local governments and services impact the quality of life in our communities”, Kifowit said.  “Services reductions for individuals with developmental disabilities or for domestic violence victims in addition to cuts to public safety affect us all.” 
The community meeting began with remarks from newly elected Oswego Village President Gail Johnson, who said, “The proposed cut would equate to a reduction of about $1.5 million dollars. For a small town like Oswego this is a large portion of our budget that will affect services.” 
The panel also included Professor David Merriman, Ph.D., public economist from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, author of numerous articles on the budget of the State of Illinois, who gave an overview on the State of Illinois budget and history. “The data has concluded that if the State of Illinois fixes the budget problem, then the economy will follow; not the other way around,” Merriman said. 

 Local service providers then joined state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, on the panel during the community meeting to discuss the impacts of services for area residents.
The most vocal of the panel was Betty Schoenholts from Senior Services who stated that “frail older adults who don’t have the strength to stand up for themselves are being used as pawns, and these are the people we help, frail older adults who won’t get the help they need.” 

She discussed the changes to the determination of need score threshold for service eligibility, which will cause these older adults to be institutionalized and removed from their homes where they can live independently as a result of home care provided by agencies like Senior Services, Schoenholts added.

“A reduction of $125,000 would not allow Senior Services to investigate elder abuse, service residents in their homes or ensure that frail older adults have the quality of life they deserve after being taxpayers for their whole life.  To be honest, these cuts just do not add up to me as being beneficial or cost effective in the long run”.
Michelle Meyer, Executive Director from Mutual Ground spoke on the reduction in the school outreach program, which could be eliminated due to the State of Illinois cutting funding, which makes up about 35% of Mutual Ground’s budget. 

“Our school outreach program results in 15-18 disclosures of youth sexual abuse a month, these children will no longer have someone to go to when they are being abused.  Who are they going to tell if we aren’t there?  They are not comfortable going to a family member so they come to us,” Meyer said.