Early voting sets record in Macon County

Early voting sets record in Macon County

April 1 – After a slow start to early voting, Macon County Clerk Steve Bean says more and more people are choosing to vote early.


Bean says his office set a new record for early voting for the April 4 Consolidated Election when the office closed Friday evening.


At the close, the County Clerk’s office had counted 1,832 votes. This surpassed the 2015 total of 1,727 early votes and the 2013 total of 1,105.


Election Judges began voting individuals who requested ballots in nursing homes Friday.


Remaining hours for early and grace period voting are as follows:

Saturday April 1:  9am to 4pm
Sunday April 2:  9am to 4pm
Monday April 3:  8:30am to 7pm


The County Clerk’s Office is located at 141 S. Main Street in Decatur.


All of your election information can be found at co.macon.il.us.

Manar not running for governor in 2018

Manar not running for governor in 2018

March 31 – State Senator Andy Manar says he will not be running for Illinois Governor in 2018.


There were rumors that Manar would throw his hat in the ring as a Democratic candidate.  Manar says his campaign did publicly explore the possibility of a 2018 run, but he will continue as a state Senator.


“Our state and our nation today face generational challenges. Illinois continues to operate without a budget, our economy continues to lag behind our neighboring states and the nation as a whole, and our schools continue to shortchange children in nearly all but the most well-off suburban Chicago districts.


“Our governor, two years into his term, has failed to grow into the leadership role we so desperately need, instead choosing to use his ample wealth and the position in which the people entrusted him to put partisan politics in their most foolish, destructive forms ahead of substantive negotiation and competent reforms.


“The legislature, to be sure, is not blameless. But absent even a hint of leadership from the governor, there is little direction, and even less progress.


“For the last several months, many have asked if I planned to challenge Governor Rauner.


“I will not be a candidate for governor in 2018.


“As a husband, a father of three young children, and as the State Senator of the 48th District, a long, expensive campaign for governor would be unfair, both to my family, and to the people who have elected me to help create jobs, get our state’s finances under control, and create a fair school funding formula, an issue for which I have a great deal of passion.


“I will continue to be a strong voice for the citizens of Central Illinois. The families I represent, and working families throughout the state bear no responsibility in the dysfunction of Springfield. And yet they bear nearly all of the burdens of a government that refuses to get its act together. It’s unjust. And it’s not who we are as Illinoisans or as Americans.


“I won’t stop fighting for you. And despite the seemingly impossible situation we find ourselves in, I truly believe in our people and I believe we can strengthen all of our schools, create broad economic opportunities, and restore the lost pride in this great state.”

Richland planning more cuts amid state budget impasse

Richland planning more cuts amid state budget impasse

March 31 – Richland Community College has announced more cuts as they continue to battle financial troubles due to a lack of the state budget.


The following is a release from Richland:


“As budget impasse rages on and the legislature continues to discuss bills that may lead to a Fiscal Year 2018 budget, Richland Community College has made plans to solidify strategies for reductions in the upcoming fiscal year and beyond. With the ongoing efforts to remain fiscally responsible to its District taxpayers, these cuts will be phased in over two years, and will result in a 9.2 percent decrease or an additional $1.4 million cost reduction from the FY 2017 budget level.


According to Richland Community College President Cristobal Valdez, Richland began conversations in September 2015 after realizing the reality of the state budget situation. “Since 2005, the state’s share has dwindled to five percent in the current year. This lack of state support is changing the financial landscape for the College. During the fall 2015 and through May 2016 it became apparent that any dependence on state support would be significantly unreliable and at substantially reduced amounts. The Richland FY 2017 budget did not include any state grant revenue. This is a reduction of almost $2.2 million. Richland is currently building the FY 2018 budget, which will not include state grant funding as well,” said Valdez.


In January, it was announced to faculty and staff that restructuring decisions were one action the College would use to specifically address the budget situation. The leadership of the College worked to prepare its second fiscal year budget that incorporated no dependency on state funding. The College has experienced a 13 percent or $2.6 million in revenue loss over the past two years. Valdez stated that declining state revenues, reduced local property valuations, and lagging enrollment numbers have continued, and now the college is looking at cost cuts of nearly $1.4 million in response to no immediate indication of a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.


Personnel costs for the College reached 80% of operational expenses, so reductions in this area became necessary. Strategies are being utilized by leadership to determine areas of staff reduction including special employee separation incentives, absorption and reallocation of work responsibilities for vacated positions, and close examination and review of staffing models for each department.


On Friday, Richland announced that a total of 14 employees accepted the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program. The most recent reduction in force includes an additional 8 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees.


“Given the enormity of the reductions to revenue, it would have been impossible to make these budgetary adjustments exclusively through operations. However, we believe the planning and input by employees allows us to mitigate the impact on personnel, continue to serve students into the future and protect the long-term sustainability of the College as no programs have been eliminated as a result of these decisions,” said Valdez.


In a measure to find these reductions based on data, members of Richland’s Cabinet looked closely at actions that would not be detrimental to the focus on student success. The Cabinet used several guidelines to direct its process including the following: deficit spending could not occur; strict prioritization placed on growing enrollment and increasing success/completion rates; Leveraging technology to gain efficiencies in all areas; and investing in instructional services.


In addition, the College began looking for ways to increase revenue and growth opportunities; explore cost saving solutions; determine reallocation strategies; and focus on balancing the budget while positioning the college for the future.


Valdez said, “Richland Community College is committed to this community as a premier provider of quality education for individuals seeking job training as well as those whose educational path leads them to transferring to a university. Providing this education at the most affordable cost is a basic tenant of Richland. We are also committed to being fiscally responsible to the District taxpayers who support almost half of the operational costs. Similarly, we are respectful of our students’ financial situations that, through tuition, pay nearly half of the operational costs. As community colleges were originally conceived, students, taxpayers, and the State of Illinois each were to share approximately one-third of the costs.”


“The College plans to stick to its mission, but is making modifications that will increase efficiency while still providing a cutting edge education for individuals so they may successfully enter the workforce or transfer to a university. As we look to the future, we must face the current reality of the present,” added Valdez.


He added, “Richland is focused on prioritizing efforts to achieve its core mission – providing exceptional education at affordable rates to all of our students. In a study conducted by Northern Illinois University, a Richland Community College program graduate could expect a 54.4% increase in projected total lifetime earnings over those that had not completed a program. In addition, Richland students who completed their education and worked year-round saw a 62.7% increase in earnings over their pre-enrollment wages. A Richland education has a significant impact on its students and the District.”

Sheriff’s office asking you to vote “Yes”

Sheriff’s office asking you to vote “Yes”

March 31 – Detective Dale Pope and Lieutenant Tony Brown of the Macon County Sheriff’s office are asking you to vote “Yes” April 4th for the Public Safety Tax.


On Byers and Company Friday morning, Pope says voting yes will allow the Macon County Sheriff’s office to re-instate 7 important positions the office was forced to eliminate due to budget cuts.


The tax comes out to one penny for every four dollars spent and does not apply to groceries, prescription drugs or vehicle purchases.


You can find the podcast Byers and Company interview on the Public Safety Tax here

Tickets available for CASA playhouse raffle

Tickets available for CASA playhouse raffle

March 31 – You can now get tickets for a chance to win one of the Macon County CASA custom playhouses.


This year is the 15th annual CASA Playhouse Raffle, which serves as the largest fundraiser for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).  The Metro Home Builders Association of Decatur and Doug Davidson have volunteered their time to build the custom playhouses this year.  CASA Executive Director Steve Miller says this year’s houses are pretty cool.


“The two houses are the enchanted house – perfect for young children.  It’s very colorful and bright,” Miller says.  “And we also have our log cabin playhouse.”


The playhouses are on display at Hickory Point Mall in the Center Court.  You can check out the homes and purchase tickets at the mall.  Tickets are also available at the CASA Office in the Romano building downtown Decatur, Neuhoff Media Decatur, Brinkoetter & Associates, all Land of Lincoln Credit Union locations, Trump Direct on N. Main Street, and at Miles Chevrolet.


CASA hopes to raise $50,000 from the raffle.


Tickets are $5 each or you can purchase 5 tickets for $20, fifteen tickets for $50, 25 tickets for $75, and 40 tickets for $100.


The winners will be drawn on Sunday, April 30, at 4 p.m. at the mall.



Midstate standout players furthering their skills

Midstate standout players furthering their skills

March 31 – Midstate Soccer Club is churning out success as one alumni member and four current players are continuing to develop their skills in the U.S. and abroad.


Midstate alumnus Davis Weggman was recently accepted on to FC Boulder’s Professional Development League (PDL) U23 team.  PDL is an amateur-level league that focuses on providing developmental training and match play opportunities for college-level players and players who aspire to be a professional.


Joella Livingston is currently participating in a week-long training camp with the 2017 Top 12 USA Futsal team in Spain.  She is gaining skills with the help of the FC Barcelona Futsal Academy.


And following great play at a national soccer camp in Georgia, Vince Koester, Kamden Sweetnam, and Christian Schanefelt were invited to attend training at the Rangers FC Elite Football Centre in Scotland during the first week of April.

Macon County unemployment rate drops in February

Macon County unemployment rate drops in February

March 31 – All but one of Illinois’ metropolitan areas saw decreases in their over-the-year unemployment rate.


According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), Macon County’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in February 2017.  That’s down from the 7.4 percent recorded in February 2016 and also down from 7.7 percent the previous month.  The statewide unemployment rate came in at 5.5 percent last month.


“More than half of the metro areas statewide lost jobs,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Of all the nonfarm jobs gained over the last year, less than 10 percent were outside of the Chicago metro area.”


The Decatur metro area lost 500 jobs compared to the previous year.  IDES estimates there were 3,200 unemployed people in the labor force in February 2017.  Additionally, the City of Decatur’s unemployment rate was at 6.8 percent.  That’s lower than when it was 7.8 percent in February 2016 and also lower than the previous month’s 8.4 percent unemployment rate.


Payrolls increased in Educational & Health Services (+100), Professional & Business Services (+100), and Financial Activities (+100). Declines were reported in Leisure & Hospitality (-200), Transportation, Warehousing, & Utilities (-200), Retail Trade (-200), and Manufacturing and Government each declined by (-100). All other major industry sectors were stable compared to last year.

Briscoe says vision is needed on the DPS 61 Board

Briscoe says vision is needed on the DPS 61 Board

March 31 – Long term planning has been absent for far too long for Decatur Public Schools and Kendall Briscoe says that needs to change.


The SIUC graduate and Communications Supervisor at Caterpillar told WSOY’s Aric Lee that the current board has failed to establish any long term goals for the district.


She says every business and organization always develop long term plans and goals and District 61 should be no different.


This is Briscoe’s first time running for public office, she is seeking one of 4 seats on the Decatur Public Schools Board of Education.


You can find the podcast Aric Lee’s interview with Kendall Briscoe here

Riley says he wants to find ways to say “Yes” for the community

Riley says he wants to find ways to say “Yes” for the community

March 31 – Chris Riley say too many times people say no, Decatur doesn’t need or deserve something in the community.


He says he is campaigning on finding ways to say “yes” and continue to move the city forward. On the Aric Lee Show Thursday afternoon, Riley said his 16 years on the Decatur Park Board of Commissioners and his time building relationships working for ADM will serve him well on the council.


He is campaigning for one of 3 open seats on the Decatur City Council.


You can find Aric Lee’s full interview with Chris Riley here