Riverside residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities will be able to register for a wide variety of special recreation classes this fall after the Riverside Village Board voted unanimously on July 19 to join the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA).

Village trustees also decided last week that it will fund membership in the association by levying a special recreation tax, beginning in 2019, which is allowed by state statute for such programs.

Exactly how much the village will levy in 2019 isn’t yet clear, but the impact on each homeowners’ bill ought to be about $30, village officials estimated. The levy may fluctuate from year to year depending on what Riverside needs to fund the cost of membership.

WSSRA is increasing Riverside’s membership fee gradually during the village’s first three years as part of the association, which provides special recreation programs to children and adults with disabilities in nearly a dozen communities, including North Riverside, Berwyn, Cicero, Forest Park and Oak Park.

Brookfield provides its residents special recreation services through the South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation (SEASPAR). Brookfield has been a SEASPAR member since 2007.

The first year’s membership in WSSRA will cost Riverside about $40,000. By year three that number will rise to almost $79,000.

Because the village does not have the special recreation tax levy in place right now, the first two payments for WSSRA membership will come out of the village’s general operating funds.

The tax levied in 2019 will be set at a level that will be able to reimburse the general fund for those initial payments and perhaps also anticipate the future increases for membership.

The village board will consider where to set the special recreation levy as part of the 2019 village budget process this fall. The village board will pass its tax levy for next year in December.

Riverside recreation Director Ron Malchiodi has been working with WSSRA since February to expedite the village’s application for membership. With the board’s approval last week of the articles of agreement, Riverside families can begin registering family members in August for programs slated to begin in September.

Prior to last week, village officials had hoped to get help in funding the special recreation membership from Riverside Township. Since the township also levies a tax to fund a mental health board, village officials believed that money would be appropriate for funding special recreation services for township residents.

Riverside Trustee Joseph Ballerine was particularly vocal about trying to enlist the township’s support, since in joining WSSRA, the village was committing to funding another service in perpetuity. 

Earlier this year, Sells and North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. approached Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt about the prospect of the township agreeing to fund special recreation services.

However, at their meeting in June, the Riverside Township Board of Trustees rejected guaranteeing a source of funding for special recreation programming.

Both Wilt and Township Trustee Tim Heilenbach, who is president of the Riverside Township Mental Health Board, said they would be open to considering grant applications from Riverside and North Riverside related to special recreation on a case-by-case basis.

“I don’t think we are ready to commit that kind of funding or that kind of ongoing guarantee,” Wilt said of specifically earmarking special recreation funds in June.