Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 06, 2009

2010 Champaign County Budget Plan Due for County Bd Vote This Month After Committee Passage

A $123,454,993 county budget plan for the fiscal year starting December 1st passed through the Champaign County Board's Finance Committee Thursday night --- and comes up for a full county board vote November 19th.

The budget cuts spending from the county's General Corporate Fund by 7-point-2 percent from original 2009 budget plan. Unlike the 4-point-5 percent cuts made partway through FY 2009, these new cuts are targeted and permanent. County Adminstrator Deb Busey says they initially planned for cuts of 6 percent --- but had to go back and cut more as sales and income tax revenue continued to decline.

"We had to cut everything we could from Commodities, Services and Capital at that point", says Busey. "So we went back and focused on recently added positions, or offices where staffing levels are high than in offices in comparable counties. And we added additional personnel cuts to achieve the total 7.2% cut in General Corporate."

Busey says the cuts assume that county tax revenue has bottomed out, and won't fall any further in 2010. Meanwhile, the new budget plan raises spending by nearly ten million dollars at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, which handles everything from long-range urban planning to Head Start programs. Busey says the increase is due to new federal grants --- much of it courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "The growth in the entire budget is almost entirely attributable to the Regional Planning Commission", says Busey.

The Finance Committee also approved a county property tax levy of $26,601,528 --- an increase of roughly 600-thousand dollars from the year before. Busey says that levy will produce an estimated property tax rate of 73.64 cents per $100 assessed valuation, down from the previous tax rate of 74.26 cents.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 05, 2009

Urbana Women’s Shelter Faces Funding Shortage, Possible Closure

A shelter for women escaping domestic violence says slow state funding may force it to close before long.

The human resources manager of A Woman's Place in Urbana says there's no set date at which the shelter would need to close without funding. But Tara Bossert says she's had to lay off about a dozen employees. Services have been curtailed to little more than emergency housing for victims and their children as well as a 24 hour hotline, and the shelter may not meet payroll for a second straight pay period.

Bossert says the facility is getting little from the state Department of Human Services, other than sympathy.

"We talked to the comptroller's office because they ultimately release the payment to us, and they've basically given us the same answer -- they understand our situation, they sympathize. But they can't expedite anything because they don't have any money to release," Bossert said.

Carol Knowles is with the state comptroller's office, which funnels state money to A Woman's Place and other agencies. She says a lack of revenue is causing fund emergencies for many agencies, and it's hard to tell when payments will catch up.

Bossert says state officials have told her that A Woman's Place is near the top of the priority list for funding when it becomes available. In the meantime, she says volunteers have stepped up to help, but many of the services require specially-trained people.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 05, 2009

Restraining Order Issued on Abortion Law

A judge has issued a temporary restraining order delaying enforcement of a law requiring doctors to notify parents of teens seeking an abortion.

The order issued Wednesday was sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. It is to remain in effect until the judge can hear arguments on the group's opposition.

It came just hours after the state's Medical Disciplinary Board voted not to extend a 90-day grace period put into place in August.

The law requires doctors to notify the parents or guardians of girls 17 or younger 48 hours before a teens gets an abortion. There are provisions that allow girls to bypass parental notification.

Illinois' law was passed in 1995 but never enforced because of various court actions.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 04, 2009

State Conducts Hearing on Proposed Carle Hospital, Clinic Merger

The recent announcement of a proposed merger between Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic has generated a lot of response.

But little of that was negative in a 2-hour state hearing in Urbana Wednesday morning. Support for the plan came from not only Carle administrators and physicians, but those who partner with the Clinic and hospital, like the United Way and Francis Nelson Health Center.

The $250 million merger would create a single not-for-profit organization with the intent of expanding charity care and more efficient operation. Claudia Lenhoff, the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, says the change in ownership could be one of the best things for the community. "Having Carle Clinic become a non-profit provider that abides by Carle Hospital's financial assistance policies as proposed in the application to the state will result in tremendous access for thousands of community members who are currently locked out of health care." said Lenhoff. Lenhoff's group is requesting some changes with the merger, including acceptance of all forms of health insurance, and for Carle to keep supporting its taxing districts that would lose revenue under the non-profit structure.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing says she can't endorse the merger unless the new organization can shift those funds onto other taxing bodies. "They account for almost 10% of our total assessed valuation," said Prussing. "The loss of Carle's payment of its fair share of the cost of fire, police, and public works would be devastating, and would place an unfair burden on all other Urbana taxpayers." Prussing says an agreement is being discussed with Carle officials in which payments would be made to the city in lieu of property taxes for clinic properties, and to let the courts decide whether hospital-owned properties would be taxable. Illinois' Health Facilities and Services Review Board will rule on the merger in March.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 04, 2009

Accreditation Team Visit to Inspect Champaign Police Dept. Raises Questions

An accreditation team is coming to Champaign Thursday to review policies and procedures at the city's police department. But the police department's critics are questioning the accreditation program --- and the timing of its visit.

Champaign Police Chief R-T Finney serves on the board of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, which sponsors the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program or ILEAP. The year-old program is billed as a lower-cost alternative to a more rigorous national accreditation program, known as CALEA, for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies..

The Reverend Evelyn Underwood of the Champaign-Urbana Ministerial Alliance questioned the city's use of a less rigorous program from a group tied to Finney, just weeks after the death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington during a police confrontation. She told the city council Tuesday night that ILEAP has accredited only one police department so far, in Kankakee.

"Apparently, police departments are not lining up to get in on this opportunity", said Underwood. "So perhaps Champaign is doing the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program a favor more than the other way around."

City Manager Steve Carter says the Champaign Police Department sees ILEAP accreditation as a stepping stone for eventual accreditation by CALEA. He says the timing of the accreditation team's visit is unfortunate, but that the visit was scheduled before Carrington's death.

The ILEAP accreditation team will take public comment by phone during its visit to Champaign --- Thursday, November 5th from 4 to 6 PM. The number to call is 217-403-7015. Comment can also be emailed to Accreditation team member Pat Solar of the Genoa Police Department, at psolar@genoapd.com. ILEAP's accreditation standards are available online at www.ilchiefs.org. A city news release says comments must address the Champaign Police Department's ability to comply with ILEAP standards.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2009

St. Joseph Residents Remember Fallen Iraq Soldier

Army Major David Audo is being remembered as a well-liked person who never changed his outlook on life.

Hundreds lined the streets of St. Joseph to honor the memory of the 35-year old native of the village who died in Baghdad a week ago. His body arrived at Willard Airport Tuesday afternoon, then a procession of police and fire personnel accompanied Audo's body from the airport to a St. Joseph funeral home.

Amy McElroy was a classmate of Audo's from Kindergarten through his graduation from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 1992. She says he made the world a better place. "Even when he got deployed this time, he was joking about his spa treatments in Iraq, about the exfoliation and the sauna," McElroy said. "He was that kind of guy, he was always in good spirits, always wanting to make everybody else feel better. We would say 'thank you for being over there,' and he would say 'this is what I want to do with my life.'"

In high school, Audo was an honors student, and was active in track as well as drama. St. Joseph-Odgen English teacher Larry Williams knew Audo both as a student and neighbor, and he says he was full of life, even as a young child.

Funeral services for Major David Audo will be at 1 Thursday at Living Word Fellowship Church in St. Joseph, with burial in Danville National Cemetery. Visitation is from 4-30 to 8 Wednesday at the Freese Funeral Home in St. Joseph.

Categories: Community, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2009

UI Presidents Warn of Budget Holdbacks But Promise No Furloughs…for Now

The outgoing and incoming leaders at the University of Illinois are asking units to set aside six percent of their current budgets.

President Joseph White and his interim successor, Stanley Ikenberry, say the university is dealing with serious cash flow problems because the state isn't keeping up with billings. The state is giving the U of I 719 million dollars this fiscal year, but White and Ikenberry say the U of I has seen little of that so far.

So chief financial officer Walter Knorr says campuses will have to hold back about 45 million dollars in this year's proposed spending, or about 45 million dollars. Knorr says the university has gotten used to holdbacks and recissions, such as last year when ten percent was set aside.

"In 2009 all we ended up with was a 2 1/2% recission. It ended up only being a slow cash payment cycle from the state," Knorr said.

Knorr says the university believes it can hold off any employee furloughs through the end of the calendar year and will try to avoid them next year as well. But the presidents' letter to campus officials still asks that hiring be limited to critical needs.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2009

Champaign Co. Nursing Home Workers Protest Management

The union representing workers at the Champaign County Nursing Home says the county board needs to take account for the behavior of management at the facility.

Nurses and other home staff represented by AFSCME Local 900 have submitted a petition with the signatures of nearly 100 employees. They allege areas like nursing, dietary, and housekeeping are often short-staffed and reprimanded for not finishing work on time. The union also says managers have failed to honor a 2-year contract that the County and union agreed to in July to cut down on the number of agency nurses.

Tara McAuley, a staff representative with AFSCME, said,"Something needs to be done, and if nothing else maybe the voters need to understand that the county board which has overseen this nursing home has sat on its hands and not done enough to improve this situation. And if that's what it takes, to appeal to the voters and get a new county board, then that's what we're going to do."

AFSCME members are also calling for the removal of Nursing Home Administrator Andrew Buffenbarger. The union says grievances against nursing home management are being filed almost daily, many over nurses and other staff who have lost their jobs. AFSCME says many nurses and Certified Nurse Assistants have quit out of fear of being fired.

Champaign County Board member and Nursing Home Board member Alan Nudo says he can't comment until he studies the charges further.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - November 02, 2009

Day Treatment Resumes in Champaign-Urbana

A substance abuse treatment facility in Urbana is about to take clients for the first time in four years.

A federal grant will enable Prairie Center Health Systems to open the doors to its renovated Day Treatment Program, which had been closed in 2005 through cuts in state funds. CEO Bruce Suardini says the $476,000 will provide a year of therapy and related services to 100 clients. He says the money is not only for helping addicts recover but to help them rebuild lives and relationships:

"It affects the whole family. It affects the whole psyche of a person," Suardini said. "So part of the things we try to do is wrap around the other services because it might be finding a job for a person that really starts the catalyst of changing the alcohol abuse or the drug abuse. We look at education, getting people some credentials. We look at employment. We might be looking at housing."

Prairie Center Clinical director Mary Evans says without day treatment, clients for what services the facility could provide wound up on its waiting lists, in the court system, or hospitals.

The Day Treatment Program will open next month when staff has completed its training. Prairie Center will treat its clients five days a week and provide transportation.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 29, 2009

Illinois Lawmakers Prepare to Vote on Ethics Deal

A key government watchdog groups says it has agreed to a compromise on limiting the size of campaign donations in Illinois.

The announcement Thursday sets the stage for lawmakers to vote on the first campaign-donation caps in Illinois history.

The plan described by the group CHANGE Illinois would limit how much money individuals, businesses and political committees can give to candidates. The limit for individuals would be $5,000.

It would also cap donations from political parties and legislative leaders during a primary election but not during the general election.

Republican lawmakers oppose that exception. They wanted strict limits on donations by powerful parties and legislative leaders.

Categories: Government, Politics

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