Cunningham Township Board approves social service budget

By Chris Pullam

Urbana taxpayers will support a final amended budget of $1.3 million for social service funding in the 2015 fiscal year after the Cunningham Township Board passed the proposed budget following a 5-2 vote. 

The Cunningham Township Board serves the same area as the city of Urbana and is responsible for issuing social welfare benefits to the area. The board is funded mostly by property tax revenue.

The decision on the budget did not yet decide which social service organizations will receive the money in 2015.

Michael Madigan, Ward 6, and Diane Marlin, Ward 7, voted against the budget and argued that it should not fall to the taxpayer to pay for social services.

“For us to sit here and decide how we are going to dole out my money, and all of your money, in additional taxes for social services is just wrong,” Madigan said. “The township is debatable, but the city should not be doling out social services. I absolutely will not support city tax dollars going to local social services.”

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Madigan said he believes donations should be the foundation for building a stronger city rather than taxing people whose paychecks have not increased in years. He fears that increased property taxes will cause harm to the city and drive away business.

One of the major reasons that the tax burden would fall so heavily on the taxpayer is Carle Foundation Hospital’s tax exemption that has left many financial districts relying more heavily on the tax revenue from local homeowners and small business.

Carol Ammons, Ward 3, supported the budget, arguing that Urbana could not give loans to businesses if the city refused to provide care for its neediest citizens.

“We should certainly provide services to the most needy of our city,” Ammons said. “Ignoring the needs of the community and those who are making minimum wage would be a very hard thing for me to do. I could not support any budget that did not include the neediest in our community.”

Michelle Mayol, the Cunningham Township supervisor charged with drafting the budget, explained at the meeting that many Urbana citizens had attempted to defraud the system by claiming false social security need. 

Mayol, along with a city case worker, went through each file and asked suspicious clients to prove their need. Several clients had forged documents and signatures, and these clients either called and canceled their assistance or never showed up to claim assistance.

City council members on both side of the fence agreed that these fraudulent requests must be purged from the system. 

“If you cannot prove the need, you should not be subsidized,” Madigan said.

Chris can be reached at [email protected].