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Flat Budget, Uncertain Revenues Could Mean Cuts for Developmentally Disabled

Updated: Wednesday, June 4 2014, 10:40 AM CDT
ILLINOIS -- Kayeleen Price likes to stay busy. She makes beads and cards to sell, and works in Sparc's catering company.

"I just love working. It's my life," she said.

Kayeleen is one of hundreds of individuals served by Sparc, a Springfield based non-profit that offers group homes and work opportunities to the developmentally disabled. It does this mostly with state funds. So when the state keeps money for services flat, like lawmakers did for next year, it's a problem.

Sparc is just one community group nervous about whether the state's $35.7 billion budget will allow it to continue its services. Like the past several years it keeps funding flat for service providers, said Don Moss, a lobbyist for groups who serve the developmentally disabled.

"This still would include no increase to keep up with inflation," Moss said. "Again, we have another year - the 11th year of no increase for the providers."

Flat revenues are bad, he says, but what makes this year so worrisome is that even that level of funding might not be there. The budget plan relies on uncertain revenue sources, and Moss has doubts on whether they'll sustain a full year.

"If the roof falls in on the budget then we're going to see a great reversal," he said.

At Sparc that would mean not letting any more people into the programs and likely kicking people off.

"That means they're going to have to find somewhere else," said Denise Schainker, Sparc's Director of Fund Development. "I don't know where that's going to be because all of us are in the same boat."

So individuals like Price might not have the opportunities they once did.

"If it wasn't for Sparc, I wouldn't be here," she said, pausing in her work.

The budget is now in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn, who has vowed to "work to minimize the impact of cuts to vital services." But Quinn has only limited power to transfer money within the budget. The only thing he can do with veto powers is reduce spending - not increase it.Flat Budget, Uncertain Revenues Could Mean Cuts for Developmentally Disabled

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