Council discusses Township funding

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council spent more than two hours of Tuesday night’s study session considering how to reconcile the shortfalls of the Champaign Township’s general assistance fund, which was established to help those in extreme poverty.

“It would have eventually come to this point,” said Linda Abernathy, Champaign Township supervisor.

Because of tax caps and other legal restrictions, the township now faces a deficit which is affecting the amount of general assistance it is capable of divvying out.

In February, Abernathy reduced the amount of assistance from $212 to $100 per month – the legal minimum – to clients of the program who are completely unemployable because of disabilities or other factors.

More than 50 individuals who are employable were dropped from the program.

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Abernathy said “basic maintenance requirements” in central Illinois are about $223 per month.

“The payments down to $100 has made an incredible difference,” Abernathy said. “But what that difference means is that it’s bought us a couple of years.”

At this rate, the township will face a nearly $70,000 deficit by the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The council considered ways to pull the township out of its deficit, including drawing from county or state funds, raising taxes or even selling the building which houses the township supervisor’s office.

The council did not make a decision on the matter Tuesday but will reconsider the issue in a May 22 study session.

“It’s embarrassing to live in a town which can’t come up with $223 a month,” said Champaign resident Eva Jehle. “I just don’t see why we can’t take care of the poorest of the poor.”