The DuPage County Board passed its 2014 budget Nov. 26.
The budget includes notable items such as a $250,000 designation for the Elgin O'Hare Western Access Project, as well as $100,000 for heroin awareness education.
At $434.8 million, the budget comes in $3.7 million less than last year and will keep property tax rates flat for the sixth year in a row, according to Finance Committee Chairman Paul Fichtner, .
"Everybody is looking to do more with less," said Board Chairman Dan Cronin. "We are meeting our responsibilities – we are exceeding what is expected of us, I believe – in the area of county governance, and we are doing it with fewer tax dollars than any of our peers."
The budget included a last minute amendment allotting $100,000 for the development of an educational campaign to prevent heroin use in the county. Cronin said the amendment is a "demonstration of our commitment to the issue."
Originally, the budget specified $50,000 for the "Be a Hero in DuPage" initiative. However, county board members Gary Grasso and Grant Eckhoff worked with the DuPage County Sheriff's Office to secure additional funding to ensure resource availability.
Manager of Strategic Planning Tim Trotter, who is a staff representative for the board's Judicial/Public Safety Committee, said the program stemmed from a desire to include various political stakeholders in one holistic effort. Partners will include the Coroner's Office, State's Attorney, DuPage Regional Office of Education and more.
Though still in development, the campaign will begin with an educational website, Trotter said, that will address the dangers of heroin use, how to identify signs of addiction in friends and family and available resources. Trotter estimated more details would be released in the next month.
Eckhoff, the chair of the Judicial/Public Safety Committee, said this was the first time the county directly allocated such funds specifically for heroin prevention. He said it was the board's responsibility to marshal the assets of the county to combat the epidemic through preventative education.
He said he believed the website could be a way for those in need of help to know what is available. For example, if parents have a concern about their child using heroin, he said, the website could be a quiet avenue to obtain information.
Cronin said the program is one of many the county has endorsed or undertaken to fight the spread of heroin use, but that it is the board's duty to do more.
"Everybody in public service is obligated to do something here," Cronin said. "... as public servants, we have been given the trust and faith and confidence of the voters and the taxpayers and this is a serious problem for our communities."