Illinois Public Media News
Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey said lagging state dollars and a poor economy mean further cuts to county departments, but she said departments are being asked to make 4% average cuts for fiscal 2011. She said they should be able to maintain their current level of services.
The full budget plan will be unveiled next month, with a vote by the county board in November. Some county departments have already seen furlough days, including the State's Attorney's Office, Court Services, the Supervisor of Assessments, and Emergency Management. Many positions were also left vacant. Decreased revenues, including state income tax dollars, have led to the new cuts, but she said she believes the worst is over.
"From this point forward, hopefully with some stabilization of the economy, we should be able to maintain this going forward," she said. "We don't anticipate a great deal of growth anytime in the near future, but hopefully we've reached the point where have reached the point where we should not have to continue cutting."
She said part of that preparation is also knowing to expect less and less in state revenues.
"This budget anticipates a fairly substantial reduction in state revenues," said Busey. "This budget is balanced, with the anticipation that those revenues are going to continue to be at a lower level than what we saw in 2008, and prior to that."
Busey added only possible impact on the public from the new cuts could come in a delay of requests for information.
Lots of baseball fans in and around Danville will spend part of their summer attending collegiate games, but the collegiate Danville Dans have only been around since 1989. Much of the early baseball history surrounding the city involves minor league baseball there, and the Three-I League...or Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. The league lasted from 1901 to 1961.
Danville's involvement in the league actually predated Danville Stadium, going back to 1910, but John Dowling's first job as a batboy with the Danville Dodgers came as the park opened in 1946- at age 13. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with the retired educator to discuss his role with the team
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has denied controversial professor and Vietnam War protester William Ayers an emeritus faculty position.
Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to deny Ayers the position. He recently announced his retirement in August after more than 20 years as an education professor on the Chicago campus. The vote followed a speech by board chairman Christopher Kennedy.
"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy," he said. "There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil then to permanently seal off debate with ones opponent by killing them."
Williams Ayers co-authored the 1974 book "Prairie Fire", which was billed as "a political statement of the Weather Underground", and included Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, among more than 200 people listed in its dedication.
Ayers, who taught on the Chicago Campus, co-founded the Weather Underground, an anti-war group held responsible for a series of bombings in the 1960s. They included nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
The Champaign County Board has gone on record opposing the county clerk's plans to move early voting to an alternate site on the University of Illinois campus.
On a party line vote of 13 to 11, Democrats backed a resolution in support of using the Illini Union, but Republican County Clerk Mark Shelden said he was not at all swayed by the vote, and he will follow through with using a location at 700 South Gregory Street in Urbana. Members of three U of I student groups spoke up to oppose the change, saying Gregory Place is hard to find, and will not have the convenience of the union. Democrat Steve Beckett said he has been a long supporter of student voting, but he added that Shelden and prior Champaign County Clerks have made it difficult.
"The only thing the students are asking for is the same opportunity to early vote as everybody else in this county," said Beckett. "And they want an opportunity to vote in a place that's close to them just as I want an opportunity to vote for early voting in a place that's close to me."
Shelden, a republican, said his goal all along was to find a location free from political activity, and accessible to everyone.
"If we really want to have a discussion about early voting, if people are really concerned, then we need to have a discussion about how we offer this to every voter in Champaign County."
In four years of early voting, Shelden says this is the first time the county board has taken interest in the issue. With some marketing, he says the Gregory Street location can be a big success.
On Saturday, October 25th, from 10 AM to 2 PM, enforcement agencies, pharmacies, and other sites will be accepting unwanted prescription drugs as part of a nationwide Drug Enforcement Administration take-back program.
Scott Collier of the US Drug Enforcement Administration in St. Louis says the initiative is part of a larger effort to combat prescription drug abuse.
"There are actually more prescription drug abusers than there are abusers of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs combined. It's second only to marijuana", says Collier.
In 2009, an estimated 7 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
Another goal of the initiative is to reduce water pollution. Medications flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain go straight to a waste-water treatment plant.
Research hydrologist Dana Kolpin of the U.S. Geological Survey says those plants were never designed to remove pharmaceuticals - and there's no law requiring them to do so. Kolpin says studies have found drugs in effluent and sludge - and trace levels in rivers and streams, where they're having effects on wildlife.
"They're not acute effects where it's causing say massive fish kills", says Kolpin, "but we're seeing say fish that have both male and female characteristics, and those kind of subtle effects that are certainly a concern as well."
Kolpin attributes most water contamination to the routine use of medications to treat people and livestock, but says improper disposal does contribute to the problem.
You can dispose of prescription drugs during the DEA's National Take Back Day, Saturday, September 25th, from 10 to 2, at the following east-central Illinois locations:
Arcola - Arcola Police Dept., 920 S. Washington St. Arthur - Arthur Visitors Center, 106 E. Progress Clinton - Clinton Police Dept., 118 W. Washington St. Danville - Sheriff Office at the Vermilion County Courthouse, 7 N. Vermilion St. Decatur - City-County Law Enforcement Center, 333 N. Franklin St. Normal - Normal Police Dept., 100 E. Phoenix Tuscola - Douglas County Sheriff's Dept., 920 S. Washington St.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Thursday finalized its fiscal 2011 budget of $4.8 billion, which is a 3.9% increase over fiscal 2010.
At the meeting, U of I President Michael Hogan said the school's image has been badly damaged by last year's admissions scandal as well as the state's financial crisis.
A recent U.S. News and World Report poll shows the U of I's Urbana campus dropped out of the survey's top 10 ranking as one of the nation's best public universities. At the University of Illinois Board of Trustees' regular meeting Thursday, Hogan said the most striking trend in the report is that the U of I is not improving as fast as other schools.
"So, we need to understand what contributed to this decline," he said. "Cause believe me all good things come to highly ranked institutions."
Hogan said the U of I must concentrate on winning over transfer students who spend a year or two at a community college.
The U.S. News and World Report ranking indicates faculty resources are down at the Urbana campus. Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter said last year, 25 faculty members earning around $106,000 left for better paying jobs.
"Our faculty are held in great esteem by institutions across the country," said Easter.
Hogan said the state's uncertain budget has left the university searching for other revenue streams. About 550 employees took advantage of the voluntary separation and retirement programs, which Easter estimates will save the university about $1.4 million a month.
In June, an Administrative Review and Restructuring (AAR) work group appointed by former President Stanley Ikenberry recommended that the university improve efforts to run its health programs. Following the recommendation, the U of I is considering a plan to hire a new vice president to oversee health services at its three campuses, and administer college of medicine sites in Chicago, Urbana, Rockford and Peoria.
The recommendation to hire a new administrator comes amid sluggish state support with about a $245 million backlog in payments to the university. The U of I has taken steps in recent months to consolidate programs as a way to cut costs, but Hogan said adding this new position would help fulfill the U of I's commitment to health sciences
"Most universities have long ago recognized the size, the complexity of the clinical enterprise, and have responded to it through a single vice president for health affairs, who among other things, can integrate that enterprise across all the campuses and all of its various sites," he said.
Hogan said about a third of the university's budget is dedicated to clinical support. The U of I Board of Trustees would have to vote to add another vice president.
At the Thursday meeting with the Board, Hogan also suggested re-naming the chancellors at the three campuses as vice presidents to re-affirm their role in helping him set a university-wide agenda.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Details of a new teachers' contract in Danville have been released, following its approval by the District 118 school board Wednesday night. Union members ratified the contract last week.
The first year of the agreement includes one-time bonuses both for certified and non-certified staff, but no increases in base salary or automatic increases, according to a 'step pay' schedule . The second year does include step pay increases.
However, if talks on a new contract in 2012 drag on past July 1st, like they did for this contract, Danville teachers returning in September will not be getting step pay increases until a new contract is reached, according to District 118 superintendent Mark Denman.
"In the past, with the salary schedule, if we were still negotiating in September, people automatically move up," he explained. "It's not that they won't move up in the future, but there will be no increase until both sides can complete their negotiations."
The new contract keeps health insurance and retirement benefits basically the same as they have been. The contract also calls for a special committee to develop a plan that bases pay on student performance. Denman said the committee's findings could be implemented in a future contract.
Denman said compromise was the trademark of the new contract, and that neither side got everything it wanted. The Danville school board also approved a separate contract for secretaries and learning resource clerks.
As Illinois tries to grapple with a $13 billion budget deficit, Illinois republican leaders say their party's gubernatorial nominee, Bill Brady, should re-consider his opposition to a tax increase.
Speaking on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana on Wednesday, Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno noted that budget cuts will need to be made by whoever is elected in November. However, she said that raising taxes could still be a possibility to generate more revenue.
"Before we talk about any sort of revenue enhancement, we need to make sure that all the cuts that can be made have been done," she said. "After we've done all of that and we assess where we're at, then we have to make a decision about whether or not there needs to be a tax increase."
Governor Pat Quinn, Brady's Democratic opponent, is eying a 33% income tax hike to ease cuts he has already proposed. The Green Party's Rich Whitney is also in favor of an income tax increase, while independent gubernatorial candidate Scott Lee Cohen and Libertarian party candidate Lex Green will not support one.
Former republican governor Jim Edgar said if Brady is elected, he thinks the realities of the job will impact Brady's strategy to solving the state's fiscal mess.
"I don't think anybody should figure that he's able at this point to completely outline point-by-point what he would do if he becomes governor with the budget," he explained. "I couldn't when I was running in 1990."
Brady and Quinn are in a tight race. A recent Rasmussen poll finds Brady picking up half of likely voters, 37% going to Quinn, Whitney earning four percent of support, and ten percent of voters stating that they are undecided or preferring another candidate.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Next April's race for mayor of Danville has become a bit clearer with a veteran lawmaker's decision to stay out.
State Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) said after 24 years in the Illinois House, going back into full-time work right after he retires at the end of this year would not be a good idea at the age of 69.
"My wife and I just decided that we need to slow down a little bit, and that's what we're going to try to do," he said. "I will give everything I have to the city council if I get elected, but the stress and strain of being a mayor at this point of my life is probably not the best thing for me to do."
However, Black noted he does intend to run for Danville's city council in his home seventh ward. He said he plans to run a collegial campaign against incumbent alderman Ron Candido.
Current Danville mayor Scott Eisenhauer has not announced whether he plans to seek another term. Black said he may or may not make an endorsement in that race.
More than a dozen social service agencies strapped for cash are getting an infusion of money from a religious organization.
It's the second year, the campus-based Illinois Disciples Foundation (IDF) has given out money from its endowment. This year $189,000 is going to 14 groups that range from the Wesley Evening Food Pantry to Crisis Nursery to the Greater Community AIDS Project. The group's director, Jen Tayabji, said many of those groups face a funding slowdown thanks to the recession.
"Some of it is state funding that's been cut or payments that are behind, and a lot of grant-making organizations have cut grants altogether because their endowments have lost so much money," Tayabji said. "So to be able to give these grants makes a huge impact on these organizations, and they've been very grateful for the money they can get."
Mary Ann Daly is a resident at Rantoul's Generations of Hope, where seniors volunteer to live near and assist troubled children. She said she agrees that charitable funding is crucial.
"We do save the state money, but it still is a very expensive program," Daly said. "We have to have social workers and therapists and people there to to work with these kids."
Tayabji said the IDF's endowment has grown despite weak investment performance - in part because the group sold off its former building on campus two years ago.
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