Illinois Public Media News
After weeks of discussions and revisions, the Champaign School Board approved 2-point-3-million dollars in budget cuts and new revenue last (Monday) night. The move comes in reaction to delays and expected cuts in state funding.
Some of the changes to the Unit Four budget are permanent --- like the elimination of nine administrative positions and four high school-level positions. But others can only be done once --- such as plans to sell two plots of land to raise 435-thousand dollars. School board member Stig Lanesskog says he had misgivings about one-time items at first --- but no longer.
"I've become less concerned about that", says Lanesskog, "because the last thing I want to do is have, in this economy, more people lose their jobs earlier than they need to"
But board member Greg Novak says the board should have looked for more savings through permanent cuts --- in case delayed state payments don't arrive in time for the start of school next fall.
"Because what happens all too often, is we'll get to September, and your buildings' budgets are all that's left to cut", says Novak. "And that which we're trying to protect will be the only thing left to cut."
In all, Unit Four is cutting 1-point-9 million dollars in spending, and selling land worth an estimated 435-thousand dollars, for a total budget decrease of 2-point-3 million. Champaign school board member Susan Grey says she expects that the state's financial problems will keep their budgets tight for the next two or three years.
"And depending on what happens with the state budgets, there may be some cuts that are just completely out of our control", says Grey. "How do we fine $1,400,000. if the state does indeed cut our funding by at least ten percent. It could be more, we don't know."
Other school districts are also considering steep budget cuts --- including the Urbana and Mahomet-Seymour districts. The Urbana school board will be hearing public comment on their proposed budget cuts at meetings set for tonight Tuesday and Wednesday
The group that represents Illinois consumers in utility rate cases says Ameren's proposed rate hike shouldn't go forth - in fact, it claims the utility should be cutting its customers' rates.
The Citizens Utility Board has been collecting petition signatures against a proposed $130 million rate hike - it would affect what Ameren charges to deliver power and natural gas, which makes up about a third of the typical homeowner's utility bill.
CUB director David Kolata contends that Ameren's request is way too high considering the utility's healthy profits and the sluggish economy. He also takes issue with Ameren's plans to ask for yearly increases.
"We would expect them to file right after this case," Kolata said. "That's why we think it's so important for the ICC to put its foot down here. If there's ever been a time to eliminate one (rate hike), now is the time, and hopefully if it occurs, Ameren will learn its lesson that they can't just keep going to the ICC and raising profits at consumers' expense."
Last month a judge recommended that the state lower the rate hike that Ameren proposed to $56 million. The Illinois Commerce Commission will consider that and CUB's opposition when it votes on the rate hike request - that vote is expected next month.
Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris says even the lowered rate increase wouldn't be enough for the utility to operate. He says Ameren has already lowered its proposal by cutting jobs and delaying construction, and the profitability of the overall Ameren holding company does not accurately reflect the performance of its Illinois utilities.
Champaign Central graduate Bubba Chisholm scored the last basket for Illinois Sunday. The Assembly Hall crowd erupted in cheer for the outgoing senior, who earned a scholarship this semester after playing as a walk-on. But there wasn't much else to cheer about. Wisconsin's Badgers led the game throughout and capped the Big Ten season with a 72-57 victory over the Illini.
Illinois is now 18 and 13 on the season, and unlikely to reach the N-C-A-A Tournament without making an improbable run in the Big Ten Tournament. Head Coach Bruce Weber:
"It'll take a couple of wins now in Indianapolis to give us a shot, I don't know. A lot of things can happen over the week. I think we've shown we're capable, but we've got to do it on the court," said head coach Bruce Weber.
The Illini must face this same Wisconsin team Friday afternoon in Indianapolis. The winner of that game is likely to face the top seed, Big Ten co-champion Ohio State, on Saturday.
Illinois' women's basketball team trailed throughout the game Friday, as they lost to Ohio State, 66 to 55 in the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis.
Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson both scored 13 points for the Illini. 10th-ranked Ohio State goes on to Saturday's semifinal action. They'll face the winner of Friday night's game between Wisconsin and Purdue. . Also in the semifinals, Michigan State plays Iowa. Michigan State beat Michigan 61 to 50 in Friday's quarterfinals, while Iowa defeated Penn State 82 to 75.
Regulators have taken over the Bank of Illinois in Normal. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is the appointed receiver.
Heartland Bank and Trust Company of Bloomington will assume all the deposits of Bank of Illinois for a premium of 3.61 percent and has agreed to purchase all the assets.
The FDIC says it expects the cost to the FDIC Insurance Fund will be $53.7 million.
As of December 31, 2009 Bank of Illinois had $211 million in assets. The FDIC and Heartland Bank have entered into a loss sharing program on $166.6 million in remaining assets.
Bank of Illinois is the 24th FDIC Insured institution to fail in the nation this year and the third in Illinois. It was founded in 1914.
Sen. Kirk Dillard called it a "hard-fought race'' today as he conceded defeat in the Republican primary for Illinois governor. Dillard's concession makes Bloomington Sen. Bill Brady the party's official nominee.
Dillard says he'll do whatever he can to help Brady defeat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November. The Senator says he feels Brady can win the governor's race, but he needs to become better-known in the Chicago area. Official results released Friday by the State Board of Elections show Brady winning the primary by 193 votes. Dillard also says he's decided not to ask for a recount. Unofficial election night results compiled by The Associated Press showed Brady with a lead of 420 votes. Absentee and provisional ballots counted since then narrowed the gap.
Official results from the State Board of Elections show Sen. Bill Brady won the Republican nomination for Illinois governor by 193 votes.
Fellow Sen. Kirk Dillard now must decide whether to concede the race or ask for a recount after the board voted Friday morning to declare the results from the Feb. 2 primary official.
Dillard has said he might seek a recount if he lost by fewer than 100 votes. He's expected to announce his decision at an afternoon news conference.
Dillard did not immediately concede the race on Election Night after it ended in a virtual tie.
Unofficial election night results compiled by The Associated Press showed Brady with a lead of 420 votes. Absentee and provisional ballots counted since then narrowed the gap.
Jenna Smith had 23 points and a Big Ten tournament-record 19 rebounds to help Illinois beat Indiana 59-53 in a first-round game on Thursday.
Smith also hit two key free throws in the final minute to end Indiana's season. Illinois had lost both regular-season games against the Hoosiers.
The Fighting Illini advanced to play No. 10 Ohio State on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Lacey Simpson had 12 points, eight steals and seven assists for Illinois (16-13). Simpson's steals total was the second-most in a tournament game.
Jori Davis scored 17 of her 20 points in the second half for Indiana. Jamie Braun scored 13 points, all in the first half, for the Hoosiers (14-16).
Illinois held Indiana to 27 percent shooting. The Fighting Illini have reached the quarterfinals each year since losing in the first round in 2004.
--- Cliff Brunt
Danville Police have arrested a Chicago man in connection with Monday's shooting on Grace Street on Danville's east side.
29 year old Ronald Van Pelt of Chicago was taken into custody Thursday.
He's charged with aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm, in connection with Monday's shooting of a 29 year old Danville man.
The victim remains hospitalized.
Bond for Van Pelt was set at $500,000 dollars.
Like many others in Illinois, the Mahomet Seymour School District is looking at painful budget cuts as a way to cope with the state's revenue crisis. And at a special meeting last (Thursday) night, more than 150 came to a special school board meeting to defend the programs they care about.
Out of the $620,276 in proposed cuts, reductions in the number of elementary classes and the elimination of intramural sports and the enrichment program received the most criticism. Lisa Powell told Mahomet Syemour school board members she had moved to Mahomet for its schools, and that cutting the enrichment program would hurt.
"A gifted child's needs are not met in the standard classroom", said Powell. "So you are going to lose children. You are going to have children who are bored. And when children are bored, what do they do? They become a Problem."
The proposed reductions in the number of elementary school classes would lead to larger class sizes in every grade but first grade. Jeff Hamilton was one of several parents who asked the school board find an alternative.
"I have a first grader with Special Education needs", explained Hamilton. "Small class sizes are very important and need to be maintained to give my daughter the best opportunity she has to succeed in school and in her life."
Others suggested that some of the cuts could be avoided by dipping into Mahomet-Seymour's $2,000,000 Education Fund. But School Board President Terry Greene says that could be risky, leading to even more budget cuts down the line.
"It was just six years ago that this school district was $1.6 million in the hole", said Greene after the public comments were completed. "We don't want to go back to the day where we have to lay off people, cut programs, raise fees through the roof. So we're trying to be responsible, trying to be thoughtful."
Greene says the Mahomet-Seymour school board will continue budget discussions next week --- and take a final vote at its March 15th meeting.
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