Friday, September 18, 2015

GCMS Approves Budget

The GCMS School Board approved the 2016 Fiscal Year District Budget for 13 million Dollars at last evening's Meeting. Superintendent Galindo projected a $1,337,568.00deficit. General State aid is projected to be $2,162,012.00, a loss of $71,325.00 from Fiscal Year 2015.  Extra expenditures for the 2016 School year include transportation costs tied to the Parkland College Program that was added to the District, the redone parking lot at the Middle School, new fencing at the H.S., Salary and stipends increase, health insurance and property insurance premium increases, and adding a 5th Grade Teacher.  The full budget can be reviewed at the Unit Office or on the School website.

The first reading of the policies was approved along with the 2015/16 recognition of schools application for all of the Districts Schools. The Board approved the change of date for the Board meeting from October 22 to the 29th. Also approved was Malory Hughes application for the Provisional Technological Education License.

The Board accepted the resignation of Isaiah Butts as the Assistant Wrestling Coach effective immediately with Thanks for his service. The board approved the employment of Tyler Brucker as H.S. volunteer Wrestling Coach. In other action the Board approved the updated teacher and alternate evaluation tools for the Media Specialists, School Counselors and Social Workers.

Two items that were discussed in length were the School Back Pack Program and the purchase of a maintenance
truck.  The maintenance truck purchase vote was tabled until more information and clarification on maintenance and warranty information could be obtained. Three bids were received for the truck.  

The School Back Pack Program was discussed and the Board approved the program to move forward. Mrs. McFerran, gave the Board more information and ideas for the Back Pack Program, to be overseen by the
local Food Pantry. Board President Josh Johnson spoke to the Board about the need for this program and that an anonymous donor has generously
offered to provide financial support. Students in need will receive a back pack filled with food products to help with their nutritional needs on non school days.

Erin Nuss, the Districts Curriculum Director gave the Board the updated Math Curriculum Guides to review. The Board tabled the vote until a future board meeting.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Animal Abuser Testifies

A Champaign woman accused of killing her former boyfriend's puppy by putting it in a hot oven told a jury she believed the dog owner was trying to frame her for the dog's death. In an hour on the witness stand this morning, neither defense attorney Stephanie Corum nor prosecutor Scott Larson ever asked Kinny Redmon if she put the dog in the oven. Under questioning by Corum, Redmon said she left a friend's apartment in east Urbana about 10:40 p.m. June 3 on a bus, then went to a bus stop near Lincoln Square, where she intended to take another bus to her parents' home in Champaign. She said as she waited for the bus about 11:10 p.m., she "started feeling very sick and dizzy" and decided to walk to Carle Hospital instead. Redmon said she left a friend's apartment in east Urbana about 10:40 p.m. June 3 on a bus, then went to a bus stop near Lincoln Square, where she intended to take another bus to her parents' home in Champaign. She said as she waited for the bus about 11:10 p.m., she "started feeling very sick and dizzy" and decided to walk to Carle instead. Attorneys planned to argue the case before the six-person jury this afternoon and then the jury was to deliberate.

Judge Settles Enbridge Case

A McLean County judge set values for six property easements Wednesday after he agreed a jury was no longer needed to decide the eminent domain case against Enbridge that is building an oil pipeline through Central Illinois. According to the (Bloomington) Pantagraph, Judge Paul Lawrence granted a motion from Enbridge lawyers Wednesday for a directed verdict, a decision that ended the trial on how much owners of six properties should receive for easements needed for the Southern Access Extension Pipeline. Enbridge is constructing a 167-mile pipeline from its Flanagan station in rural Livingston County to Patoka in southern Illinois. The pipeline also is running through McLean, DeWitt and Macon counties in Central Illinois.  The landowners received settlements ranging from $10,000 to $30,000. An Oct. 5 eminent domain trial is set on 17 additional easements needed for the pipeline approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in 2009. Landowners plan to appeal the ruling.

Governor Calls on Legislature to Pass Budget Immediately

Gov. Rauner is calling on majority Democrats to support his legislative agenda or "immediately" pass their own balanced budget. In a memo to legislators Thursday, the Republican notes Illinois is about to enter a fourth month without a budget for the first time. He says the longer the stalemate drags on, the more painful it is. Rauner says his initiatives — including letting local governments opt out of collective bargaining with public-worker unions — would save taxpayers $5 billion. Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, says Rauner's "demands" have "zero impact" on the state budget and will hurt the middle class. Phelon says Rauner and legislative leaders haven't met as a group to discuss the budget since May. She says: "This merry-go-round has got to stop."

LaHood Takes Office

Central Illinois is now back up to full representation in Congress. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood took the oath of office in the U.S. House at Thursday morning after his landslide victory in last week's special election to fill the seat resigned by Aaron Schock on March 31. The Peoria Republican will fill the seat through the remainder of the term in January 2017. LaHood's inauguration, however, creates another temporary vacancy. Effective at noon Thursday, LaHood resigned his seat in the state Senate. In a note to the secretary of the Senate making the resignation official, LaHood called it an "an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to serve the people of central and west central Illinois." The resignation now creates a 30-day countdown for the Republican county chairmen in the district, which stretches west to the Mississippi River and north into Lee County, to name a replacement.

Unemployment Rate Drops

Illinois' unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in August but state officials point out that the number of people with jobs also declined. The Illinois Department of Employment Security said in its monthly report on statewide unemployment Thursday that the jobless rate fell from 5.8 percent in July. Nationwide unemployment was 5.1 percent in August. The department said Illinois lost a net 900 jobs in August. The number of unemployed workers fell 3 percent to 362,500. Department director Jeff Mays said the figures indicate many people continue to leave the workforce. The largest job gains for August were the net 2,600 jobs added by financial activities firms and 2,300 jobs added in the health services industry. Illinois manufacturers cut a net 2,200 jobs for the month.

Government Hirees Used Taxpayer Dollars

At least three government administrators began working on hiring employees for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration last winter while on the comptroller's office payroll, using taxpayer dollars from a separate constitutional office before Rauner had even taken the state's reins. Rauner, a Republican who promised to clean up clout-laced government hiring, relied on comptroller's employees to get his administration running, including recommending candidates for politically affiliated jobs, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Two went on to become senior Rauner managers, including one who oversees hiring for the governor's office. Rauner aides say the practice was an appropriate and efficient way to get the new administration up and running, and that the comptroller's independent inspector general gave approval in advance. But political experts and reform advocates say the practice was improper and breached divisions between constitutional offices.

Chicago Liquor Stores Fined

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission says bootlegging charges have been filed against the owners of seven Chicago liquor stores for illegally importing alcohol from Indiana. Attorney General Lisa Madigan charged 10 defendants Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court with sales tax evasion over $100,000, a Class 1 felony punishable by up to four to 15 years in prison. She alleges that between July 2010 and December 2012, the defendants defrauded the state out of $3.5 million in sales taxes. The commission says authorities initially learned of the alleged bootlegging through a tip from an Illinois retailer. It says an investigation began in June 2013 after the commission alerted Illinois Department of Revenue investigators of the suspected bootlegging. Revenue investigators executed search warrants on the seven liquor stores.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

State Paying for Children's Programs

Illinois will begin paying for programs to help young children with developmental disabilities despite not having a state budget in place. Comptroller Leslie Munger said today that payments for early intervention providers will be processed "immediately." The Republican says her office determined the services should have been paid for under a previously issued consent decree that requires some social services be funded. She says she learned last week the program was "slipping through the cracks." Munger says her office is receiving about 5,000 phone calls per week from providers and vendors hoping to be paid during the budget impasse. She again called on Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislators to reach a budget deal. The two sides have been fighting over a budget for the fiscal year that started July 1.

Jacksonville Man Charged with Murder

First-degree murder charges were filed in Morgan County Circuit Court this morning against a man accused of shooting and killing his former son-in-law Friday near the Jacksonville Police Department, an area monitored by security cameras. 61 year old Robert Gill of Jacksonville made a first appearance in court in a wheelchair. He was arrested shortly after the shooting when he crashed his pickup truck along a rural road just west of Jacksonville and it burst into flames. The crash injured Gill badly enough that he spent the next several days in the hospital. He was arrested Tuesday immediately after his release from Memorial Medical Center in Springfield and taken to the Morgan County Jail. Bond for Gill has been set at $3 million, and the case was continued until Oct. 1 for a preliminary hearing. Defense attorney Scott Hanken asked Associate Judge Jeffery Tobin to reduce the bond to $500,000, and Tobin will schedule a hearing on that motion once he receives it in writing.

PARCC Results Released

Preliminary results from new statewide tests based on the Common Core educational standards show that the vast majority of Illinois high school students fell short of grade-level expectations. Only three in 10 of the high schoolers who took the online version of the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam in the spring met or exceeded expectations in English language arts and literacy. Less than one in five high schoolers met or exceeded expectations on the exam's math portion. The Illinois State Board of Education released the preliminary scores Wednesday. Illinois education officials earlier this week warned parents, teachers and students to expect low scores. The new tests were also given to third through eighth graders.

Marijuana Hearing Set

A public hearing will be held next month to hear evidence for adding eight medical conditions to the list of what can be treated in the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program.
Anyone who wants to present evidence in favor of adding one of the eight conditions must submit a statement to the Illinois Department of Public Health by email by 5 p.m. on Sept. 30 or by mail postmarked by Sept. 28. Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration has so far rejected recommendations to add new conditions to the list. But an advisory board is still scheduled to hold its public hearing on Oct. 7 in Countryside, Illinois. The board was appointed by former Gov. Pat Quinn. The conditions being considered were submitted by public petition in July. They are: autism, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chicago Approves Food Cart Vendors

A Chicago City Council committee has approved an ordinance that would license the city's 2,000 food cart vendors after officially banning them for decades. The council's License Committee has passed the ordinance drafted by cart vendors and their advocates. It still needs approval from the full council. Chicago prohibits street vendors from selling anything more than frozen desserts and uncut fruits and vegetables. Cooked food such as tacos and hot dogs and cut fruits and vegetables are forbidden. Despite the ban, the Chicago Sun-Times reports vendors risk arrest by serving an estimated 50,000 meals daily. Alderman Roberto Maldonado, who says he buys tamales from a cart vendor every Sunday, says the ordinance would bring immigrants and other entrepreneurs "out of the shadows" and give them respect and legitimacy.

Hanover Park Installs Unique Signs

The stop signs at a suburban Chicago intersection apparently weren't enough to get drivers to hit the brakes.
So, police in Hanover Park have put up new signs just underneath with arrows pointing up to the familiar red octagons. The message in white letters says, "This is a stop sign." Deputy Police Chief Mike Menough tells the Daily Herald the goal was to "try something different and raise the awareness level of motorists." The only trouble is the stop sign humor apparently runs afoul of federal requirements on uniformity of signs. The Illinois Department of Transportation is even warning the village that leaving them up could trigger a funding cut from the Federal Highway Administration. The village plans to leave them up for just a few weeks.

More Ethanol Pumps Coming to Illinois

More ethanol-blend pumps are coming to Illinois. Pumps offering blends of E15 up to E85 will be introduced "to expand access to higher blends," according to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program is pumping $100 million into an effort to provide nearly 5,000 pumps nationally offering the fuel with corn-based ethanol at more than 1,400 U.S. fuel stations, virtually doubling the number of ethanol pumps presently available. More ethanol is better for consumers, recognizing oil-company resistance to offering a variety of ethanol blends at the pump. Illinois will receive a federal grant of $12 million for the new pumps that includes funds from private and state resources. But Illinois, while being one of the top corn-producing states in the country, won't receive the largest number of pumps. The national program will add 892 blender pumps in Florida, 763 pumps in Texas and 620 pumps in Minnesota.