Illinois Public Media News
Illinois' cash flow problems are causing headaches for local health care providers. The state is waiting months to pay local agencies. Diana Knaebe is with Heritage Behavioral Health Center in Macon County. She says her facility last received a state check in December. Before that time, it was early fall. Knaebe says the delays force her to juggle expenses.
"You start to wonder if you can make payroll, "Knaebe said. "You start looking at vendor checks and wonder which ones can you pay, which ones can you pay a smaller portion than you did in the past and all those kinds of things."
Knaebe says she might need to borrow money -- and pay interest -- just to cover her costs. Illinois' Comptroller says part of the dilemma is that Illinois fails to fully fund Medicaid, leading to a budget shortfall each year. He supports legislation that would require a more accurate financial plan.
Employee unions on the University of Illinois campus say administrators should have better picture of the state and federal budget picture before talking about layoffs and furloughs. AFSCME Local 698 President Jim McGuire said in a noon hour press conference that the University is cutting staff at every opportunity, despite an increase in funding in the last fiscal year, while he believes there's new hope to avoid cuts through Governor Pat Quinn along with federal economic stimulus funds. Groups like the Graduate Employees Organization and Visiting Academic Professionals also say they're also frustrated administrators won't meet with them before making budget contingency plans.
Illinois public colleges and universities are hopeful the state will come through with money for construction needs. It's been nine years since Illinois last adopted a statewide building program. Judy Erwin, the director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, says the schools have had to shift money toward the upkeep of facilities.
"Dollars that should be going to student services, to increase faculty salaries, needs based financial aid possibly, go to repair the boiler or repair the ceiling," Erwin says.
Students are feeling the effects as all public universities have begun charging fees to offset maintenance costs. As for other needs, Erwin says the Board will ask the Governor and legislators for a five and a half percent increase in funding. That amounts to about 110-million dollars above what was budgeted this school year. She says even if that request is approved, public colleges and universities will still be well short of what the state was providing eight years ago.
A failure at an AmerenIP substation at Sidney cut power to most of the University Illinois' Urbana campus for about six hours yesterday (Sunday).
The outage began around 3:15 yesterday afternoon, and ended for most campus buildings shortly after 9 PM. Campus Police say power was back on to all buildings by midnight. Spokesperson Robin Kaler said in a news release that the outage forced dormitory dining halls to serve cold dinners last night. Some campus events were cancelled, including a concert by rap artist T.I. at the Assembly Hall, and a klezmer band performance at the Krannert Center. Campus police put additional patrols on campus yesterday ... and alerted managers of buildings where critical research is conducted to take appropriate action.
U of I officials expected steam heat to be restored to campus buildings overnight. Campus police went from building to building overnight, to make sure air handlers and chillers had restarted.
Illinois has recently seen a surge of wine production. But is it on par with legendary wine regions elsewhere? AM 580 intern Whitney Wyckoff traveled to Vermilion County, where a part of the prairie has become a vineyard.
Many people in the Champaign-Urbana area had a soft spot for Pages for All Ages, a bookstore that welcomed local readers for more than 20 years to its single store, first in Champaign, then in Savoy. Pages abruptly closed its doors for good this week, citing the economy. It's not been an easy go for independent book retailers over the last few years, especially as Amazon and other Internet outlets joined Borders and Barnes and Noble as major competitors. The director of the American Booksellers Association, Avin Mark Donmitz, says Pages fell by the wayside as the group's other members are preparing for a difficult immediate future. He spoke to AM 580's Tom Rogers.
Chancellor Richard Herman presided at a town hall meeting Thursday (Jan. 22) about the campus and university budget. The event was open to the campus community, and was broadcast live on WILL-AM. Among the topics Herman, Provost Linda Katehi and others discussed the state of the current budget and plans for meeting budget challenges. A lively discussion followed the formal presentation, with many in the audience asking questions and commenting on the information presented.
The president of the University of Illinois sent out an email to faculty, staff and students Wednesday, discussing the financial problems facing the university during the current recession. The economic downtown has already caused the U of I to postpone plans to either renovate of replace the 46-year old Assembly Hall on the Urbana campus. In a conversation with Jim Meadows, B. Joseph White said he hopes to avoid layoffs and unpaid furloughs --- but won't rule them out.
Most polling places in Champaign County already had voters lined up at 6 am, eager to be among the first voters in what would become a watershed election. That zeal continued through the day, and when all the votes were counted, the county and region posted near record turnout. AM 580's Tom Rogers recaps a hectic day that ended in history being made.
If you're a Champaign County resident who fears rising tax bills during a shaky economy, the resuults from the general elections are good -- all four tax hike questions on the ballot were defeated. Townships, school districts and the county forest preserve district sought the tax increases. But in every case, the answer from voters was no. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
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