DuPage County panel OKs SCARCE agreement
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:36PM
DuPage County officials like a proposal for allocating general funds to support the organization that shows county residents and businesses how to walk the green walk.
The tentative contract for School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, endorsed Tuesday by the environmental committee, would keep its activities going for 17 months, through fiscal 2013. It approaches SCARCE as a consultant providing environmental education services and allocates up to $195,000 to pay for teacher training, seminars, presentations and awards furnished by the Glen Ellyn agency under a cost-share agreement. Officials say the prospective deal is structured to foster “capacity building” by the group, which is being urged to seek additional outside support to make up for a lessened sum from the county.
The staff at SCARCE had expected to receive an emergency cash infusion that would take it just to the end of the current fiscal year. Their existing agreement with the county expires June 30, the terminus for the $155,700 provided annually to sustain the agency. A separate $60,000 SCARCE receives under state mandate from the county’s Stormwater Management Department is not in peril.
“I’m very glad ... that we have time to work on some more things and also not to have to worry come October,” said Kay McKeen, the organization’s founder and executive director.
The group’s support from the county was jeopardized over the past year or so by dwindling income from building permits and landfill tipping fees, which provide the revenue used to fund SCARCE.
If the accord meets full County Board approval at its June 12 meeting, the new arrangement will give McKeen, her two-person staff and their many volunteer helpers time to “do the work that we love to do,” she added.
Board member and Naperville resident Jim Healy, who is working to wean the agency from the discretionary portion of county financial support, has suggested tapping the Forest Preserve District for funds and consulting the Conservation Foundation in Naperville for assistance in seeking out new revenue sources. The organization’s funding crunch, Healy said, is nothing new.
“We’ve talked to (McKeen) in the past about how it’s not really in the purview of the county to fund what she does,” he said.
In addition to awarding earth flags to community groups that demonstrate their commitment to sound ecological stewardship practices, SCARCE conducts waste audits, collects broken crayons and remolds them into “super crayons” that are easily used by kids with disabilities, presents community outreach programs about topics such as alternative fuels and resource conservation, and collects and redistributes textbooks and other reading materials, among other activities. Over the first four months of 2012, SCARCE provided 57,761 books for local teachers to use in their classrooms.
McKeen has acknowledged the organization’s ever-expanding array of services and programs adds to the need for her to be much more aggressive in seeking monetary support. Currently the group covers more than a third of its expenses using contributions from businesses, individuals and processors of various recyclable materials it collects. Totaling nearly $128,000, the donations received in 2011 represented a 34 percent increase over what was collected in 2009.
“I know she raised $127,000 last year,” Healy said. “The problem is she spent all of it on new programs.”
Committee member Dirk Enger, who helped craft the new agreement, pointed out that the county’s cost for the 17-month allocation amounts to less than it was paying in recent years, when SCARCE offered fewer programs and $155,700 of the county committee’s budget went to the organization annually.
“Even at $214,000, it would be a steal,” Enger said.