Illinois Public Media News
The newly-combined Carle Foundation Hospital and former Carle Clinic may have a deal with local governments over property taxes.
Up to now, Carle Clinic Association had been an independent for-profit firm. But now that it's been bought out by the Carle Foundation, it's got not-for-profit status under the name Carle Physician Group. That means it's no longer liable for property taxes at its clinic buildings - and that could cost government entities in Champaign County at least $2.4 million a year.
When the merger was announced last November, Carle CEO Dr. James Leonard was quoted as saying Carle would make payments to those government in lieu of taxes. Thursday, he said they're getting close to an agreement.
"We're not done with the discussions yet," Leonard said. "In terms of of their needs, they're very concerned -- particularly with the recession we've been in -- about the resources going forward. It's been an active, positive discussion."
Leonard wouldn't say when a final agreement on tax payments would come out. Meanwhile, he says the Carle Foundation would continue to challenge the state's decision to strip it of its tax-exempt status for some hospital properties. The hospital has put money into an escrow account as the case is still being challenged in court.
University of Illinois administrators are meeting with two 'green energy' student groups next week to decide if a plan for placing a wind turbine on the Urbana campus still has life. A $2 million grant awarded in 2005 will expire in three months, unless the U of I can find a funding source to pick up the remaining cost. With dwindling state funds, members of groups like the Student Sustainability Committee and Students for Environmental Concerns suggest the capital bill approved by Illinois lawmakers, or the U of I Foundation, could pay the remaining $1.7 million for the turbine.
U of I Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Steven Sonka says the turbine would appear to produce a reasonable rate of return, and would be an attractive option if financing were available. But he suggests there are more effective uses for that kind of money... including retro-commissioning of some campus buildings. "These are very high payoff in terms of energy savings, because it's the energy savings that pays back the initial investment,' says Sonka. "And we want to do those, too. But that's a question of financing as well. We've gotten grants in the past to change lighting in buildings, and those tend to have attractive payoffs." With Urbana campus energy costs exceeding $75-million a year, student groups contend the turbine would quickly show some benefits.
Sonka says the student proposals for paying for the turbine's remaining cost would be considered. He says discussions with other 'outside entities' are being considered, but wouldn't comment on them. The initial grant for funding the wind turbine came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. On Monday, Governor Pat Quinn indicated his support for the project in a visit to campus, noting wind energy was one goal of the recently-passed capital bill.
Just over 600 employees on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus want to take advantage of voluntary separation programs offered early this year.
Friday is the deadline for applicants looking to leave their jobs or retire through the program. The incentive was offered earlier this year as a means for the U of I to cut costs amid Illinois' bleak financial picture. Spokeswoman Robin Kaler says human resources staff had no idea how many applicants they'd get, but she says the mere volume means employees won't hear word on a decision until the first week of May. Kaler says departments will soon have their work cut out for them when reviewing names. "Would allowing 'Person X' to separate save you money?,' says Kaler. "And obviously, if a unit has more than one person who's signed up, they would look at the whole picture. It might be that 'boy, we'd need to replace a piece of this person, but if that person also left, we could replace two people with one, or something like that." Kaler says the 613 applicants included about 350 civil service workers, and 180 academic professionals. Meanwhile, about 90 tenured faculty members, and another 16 adjunct professors and lecturers took advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive. About 30 applicants weren't eligible for the program, with about 20 more names to review. Human Resources on the Urbana campus offered the Campus Separation Incentive programs to anyone who had been on campus for at least four consecutive years. The retirement incentive applies to staff who meet State University Retirement System eligibility requirements. Eligible employees approved for either incentive would receive a lump sum payment of half their annual salary, with a maximum payment of 75-thousand dollars.
30 to 50 cadets at Rantoul's Lincoln's Challenge program could face expulsion over a fight in the academy's dining hall Sunday night.
The National Guard-sponsored academy is for students who dropped out of high school but want to rebuild their lives. National Guard public affairs director Major Brad Leighton says the fight apparently grew out of a dispute over a basketball game earlier yesterday. He says today staff are trying to sort out how the fight developed into an incident that brought about 20 Rantoul police officers to the hall, looking at surveillance tapes of the cafeteria.
No one was reported seriously injured.
Leighton says Lincoln's Challenge works on a military basis and has a zero-tolerance policy against fighting, so cadets involved may be kicked out of the program. Academy director Peter Thomas says the school is working as normal today.
Unemployment in Illinois rose slightly from January to February.
The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for February was 11.4 percent. That compares to 11.3 percent in January. There were 900 fewer jobs in Illinois in February.
Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Maureen O'Donnell says she's encouraged that the job loss pace is slowing in the state. She says a few more months of data are needed before it's possible to assess the path of recovery.
Illinois' jobless rate is at its highest level since July 1983. Since the recession began in December 2007, the nation has lost 8.4 million jobs and Illinois has lost 403,600 jobs.
The national unemployment rate in February was 9.7 percent.
The Illinois House wants to give struggling schools a chance at saving money by having students in class only four days a week.
The measure easily advanced to the state Senate. Supporters say costs like busing students and electricity would be lower. The sponsor, Danville Republican Representative Bill Black, says it would require schools that drop a day to have longer hours when school is in session. That way, students would still be in class the same amount of time.
But opponents, like Chicago Democratic Representative Monique Davis, say the state should avoid placing money problems on the backs of students and their families. "I don't believe that children should be told you can stay home alone for a full day and take care of yourselves, take care of your little brothers, take care of your little sisters because the state can no longer afford to educate you," Davis said.
Under the proposal, school districts interested in dropping to a four day school week would have to hold public hearings. The State Board of Education would also review the plan.
Public education faces one-point-three billion dollars in cuts next school year. Governor Pat Quinn is suggesting lawmakers approve a tax increase to plug that hole.
With a major healthcare reform about to become law......many Illinoisans are left wondering what's in it for them. The Illinois Department of Insurance has put together a list of changes directly affecting people in the state.
Most provisions won't take effect until 2014, but residents could start seeing changes to their policies within the year. The state Department of Insurance expects health insurance rates to stabilize. The agency points out those seeking coverage won't be discriminated against because of a pre-existing illnesses.
The department's Director Michael McRaith says those changes will reduce trepidation on the part of Illinois consumers. "No longer will people be denied an application for insurance, be denied a claim that they filed with their insurance company, will be charged more because they've been sick or they might become sick in the future," McRaith said.
A major provision of the package is an insurance exchange system. McRaith says that will let Illinoisans shop around and pick from state approved policies. He adds that preventative services like mammograms will also be included. The changes will expand Illinois' Medicaid system, but there are no official cost estimates. One study found one third of Illinois residents have no health coverage.
Some Democrats are reacting coolly to Governor Pat Quinn's call on lawmakers to stay in Springfield over their spring break to work on budget issues - but Quinn's challenger says "bring it on."
Quinn wants a vote soon on his proposal to raise the state income tax rate by one percent to help bolster education funding in the midst of a 13 billion dollar budget deficit. Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady says he's in favor of an early vote too, but for a different reason.
"We're ready to go tomorrow," Brady said. "The sooner the better, because it's time that he stopped living in fantasy land, and it's time that he realized that the real picture is that we're not going to raise taxes. We're not going to do that to Illinois families and businesses, and we're going to deconstruct and construct a budget that's balanced."
Brady says he's against any sort of tax increase in this year's general assembly. Democratic House leader Mike Madigan will only say he's taking the idea of an early vote on an income tax increase under advisement.
Brady made a weekend appearance at a Champaign County GOP event headlined by former Bush administration advisor Karl Rove.
In a season where the Fighting Illini's bid to make the NCAA tournament fell short, a study by Forbes magazine says it's still among the most financially viable college basketball programs.
The team ranked 5th in the magazine's study and tops among Big Ten Conference teams with a value of $20.8 million. Reporter Peter Schwartz analyzed 'dividends' that teams can generate, including money for academics and scholarships, their athletic conference, and their community at large. In Forbes' third annual ranking of the most valuable college basketball teams, Schwartz says the U of I's athletic department was also able to keep costs for basketball down while helping a lot of so-called 'non-revenue' sports like volleyball and tennis.
Schwartz also says being one of the primary attractions of the area doesn't hurt. "There's even more professional sports competition in and around the area as well, but at the same time, being in Urbana and not being in Chicago actually plays to the programs' benefit." says Schwartz. Schwartz says the Illini's most impressive figures include $7-million in gate receipts, and more than $4 million coming from season ticket holders. Schwartz says success on the court also plays a role into a team's financial success. The Fighting Illini are hosting at least one postseason game next week as part of the NIT Tournament. Schwartz says that will help a team, but it's not a deciding factor in its final ranking in the study.
Other Big Ten schools on Forbes' list of the 20 most valuable teams include Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Tops on the list was the North Carolina Tar Heels, with a value of $29 million.
As unemployment climbs and economic hard times worsen for many in Champaign County, area churches are finding it difficult to keep up with the need. Shelley Smithson reports as part of a joint project confronting poverty in the area.
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