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.
Gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney says the other candidates for governor may have parts of the solution to Illinois' fiscal problems --- but only he has the full package. The Green Party candidate commented during a campaign stop in Champaign-Urbana Thursday.
Whitney told a gathering of University of Illinois students that Governor Quinn is right to support a state income tax increase --- but he says such an increase should be modeled after past proposals for education funding reform.
"It's not just an income tax increase", says Whitney. "You have to provide protections for lower and middle income class earners, so that they're not actually paying the higher tax, in order to make our system more progressive. You also have to provide property tax relief to the people as part of the package. And you have to give voters some assurance that this extra revenue you're raising is going to be going to our schools."
Whitney says Quinn's promises to protect lower and middle income earners under an income tax hike are too vague. And while he supports cuts in spending, Whitney says Republican Bill Brady's call for across-the-board cuts is too crude.
Whitney also supports a tax on financial transactions ... and creation of a state bank like North Dakota's, to finance state spending projects. Whitney first outlined his budget plan in March, but says the news media focused mainly on one proposal --- to legalize and tax marijuana.
US Senator Dick Durbin says an overhaul of federal student loans will end years of students having to pay back a costly bank subsidy.
In a visit to Parkland College Thursday, Illinois' senior senator met with recipients of Pell Grants, a program that will add more than 20-thousand recipients in Illinois as the result of the overhaul. Durbin says the loans haven't kept pace with the cost of tuition, but they'll be increasing in value under this measure.
The overhaul also cuts out commercial banks and other lenders from the loan process. Durbin says the 45-year old loan program carried no risk to banks -- and they'd be paid in full -- even if a student defaulted on a loan:
"So banks were being given this opportunity to add to the interest rate on student loans in a risk-free environment. That is known in most circles as corporate welfare," Durbin said. "It cost us as a nation $8 billion a year that we were giving to banks and they were adding to the cost of student loans all around America. Students now struggling to pay back their student loans are now struggling to pay back this bank subsidy."
Federal student loan dollars will now be shifted to the direct loan program. For current 10-year loans, a person making $30,000 annually would have to pay $460 a month.
When the overhaul takes affects in 2014, Durbin says that amount will be reduced to just over $100 a month - and no more than 10% of someone's annual income when the program is fully implemented.
The regulators have been satisfied, and today's the day that Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Clinic Association become one entity.
The two firms had been related but not unified until now - but starting Thursday, the former Carle Clinic has turned from a for-profit company to a wing of the not-for-profit Carle Foundation. It'll now be known as Carle Physician Group.
Carle Foundation president Dr. James Leonard says the combination will make for more efficiency, streamlining a patient's care. "When a patient is moved from one venue to another, they're moving throughout a continuum of care that recognizes their needs, their care, their financing so that we're all thinking about this as a single episode," said Leonard.
Dr. Bruce Wellman headed Carle Clinic and is now the CEO of Carle Physician Group. He says some last-minute approvals meant that merging the two groups' paperwork was delayed until now. "Planning was okay (before the merger), (but) not doing any actual work in changing things, such as the computers, until we had all of the approvals because it would not be legal or appropriate to do that," Wellman said. "So we have timing issues of literally thousands and thousands of things that have to happen, and bills are an excellent example."
Carle says billing will be merged over the next few months. They're asking people who encounter any billing issues to be patient, and patients may be asked to verify their insurance.
A 61-year-old Clinton man was killed in an apparent truck accident outside the Plastipak Packaging plant on West Clark Street in Champaign Wednesday.
The Champaign County Coroner's office says independent truck driver Jimmy E. Hovis was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 10:30 Wednesday morning. An autopsy will be held Thursday.
Champaign Police say Hovis was found lying injured on the ground. Preliminary reports suggest he may have been hit by his own semi truck, which was found running, with the gears hifted in reverse. Police are still investigating the matter.
An internal City of Champaign investigation into a fatal police shooting last fall is winding down.
City attorney Fred Stavins says the two outside experts the city asked to conduct the study have completed much of their work looking into last October's shooting death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington. Police say they confronted Carrington and another teenager as the two were trying to get into an acquaintance's home on Vine Street - an officer's firearm went off and hit Carrington during a scuffle.
Stavins says retired Urbana police chief Eddie Adair and retired McLean County Judge John Freese continue to meet, but their fact-finding portion of the review is generally complete - and he says that's only one segment of the overall investigation.
"There's been an internal investigation that involves police personnel", says Stavins. "And subsequent to that, there'll be another review by another group in the police department --- the Firearm Discharge Board."
Stavins says any ultimate changes to police policy or other outcomes of the report will be up to City Manager Steve Carter. He says the goal is to determine whether the Carrington incident should lead to changes in policy. But Stavins says it will not second-guess a state police investigation that cleared Chief RT Finney and Officer Daniel Norbits of criminal wrongdoing. Carrington's aunt has filed a wrongful -death lawsuit against the officers and the city.
GOP lieutenant governor candidate Jason Plummer says state government needs the sort of experience he's gained while working for the family company.
The 27-year-old Plummer is a vice-president at Edwardsville-based R-P Lumber. The company founded by Plummer's father operates more than 40 retail stores in Illinois and Missouri, and is also involved in commercial development and banking.
"So we really understand the private sector side of things", Plummer told a group of supporters during a campaign stop in Champaign on Wednesday. "We understand what it takes to create jobs in Illinois. We understand what it takes to grow business in Illinois. And what I like to say is, you know, we need more people in Springfield that know what it's like to make a payroll every two weeks. We need more people in Springfield that know what it's like to sign the front end of a check and not just endorse the back."
Plummer says that, if elected, he'll work with GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady to balance the state budget and create private sector jobs. He says the lieutenant governor's office was "underutilized" by Pat Quinn.
"I watched Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich brag in the newspaper that they had not talked to each other in two years", says Plummer. "Well, how can you manage an enterprise the size of the state of Illinois if the two top people don't communicate? I'm going to work hand in hand with Bill Brady --- strong partnership, use the office, elevate the office, and focus on issues where we're struggling."
Plummer's visit to Champaign-Urbana comes two days after a campaign visit from Governor Quinn and his new running mate, Sheila Simon. Plummer says the nomination of Simon makes it clear that the Democratic ticket is committed to more spending and big government.
In addition to the Quinn/Simon and Brady/Plummer pairings, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney and lieutenant governor candidate Don W. Crawford are also on the ballot in November.
A McLean County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Urbana School District against a Normal-based district over a former teacher now imprisoned for child molestation.
In dismissing the lawsuit Tuesday, Judge Scott Drazewski said Unit 5 was immune from the civil action because it is a public body, and also said Urbana District 116 missed the legal deadline for filing.
The Urbana district was seeking $1 million, saying it wanted the money to help cover the $2 million it paid to settle claims filed by nine girls molested there by teacher Jon White after he left McLean County. Urbana officials say Unit 5 failed to disclose that White had been forced to resign.
White is serving 60 years in prison for molesting two girls in Unit 5 and the nine in Urbana.
It's been almost a year since the H1N1 flu strain appeared in the U-S --- but health officials are still urging the public to get vaccinated. The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched a new campaign urging people to get vaccinated, if they haven't done so already.
Julie Pryde of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District says less than a third of county residents have been vaccinated for H1N1, or swine flu. She wants more people vaccinated to protect against a possible resurgence of the virus this spring or fall.
"If you do not have a shot for H1N1, you are not protected", says Pryde. "And we are expecting H1N1 to come back. Right now, it really heating up in the southeast and the south. And there are starting to be more and more cases, which indicates to us that it's going to sweep across the country somewhat like it did in the fall."
Pryde says that outside of some flu-like illnesses reported at hospital emergency rooms, there don't seem to be any signs of H1N1 in Champaign County right now. But the Illinois Department of Public Health says 18 new cases were reported around the state last week, including one death.
In contrast, Pryde says the seasonal flu strain seen this past winter seems to have run its course in Champaign County.
The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is offering free H1N1 flu vaccinations, without an appointment. They're available weekdays from 8 to 4 at the agency's headquarters on West Kenyon Road in Champaign. Pryde reminds parents that children will need two shots, spaced a month apart.
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.
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