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Springfield

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for nearly double the debt burden of just 12 years ago. That’s according to a new report on the fiscal state of the state.

Truth In Accounting (TIA) has been evaluating state governments for how much debt the state has versus how much they bring in. Their Financial State of the States 2021 published Tuesday.

For all 50 states, the total amount of state government debt taxpayers must pay back is $1.5 trillion at the end of fiscal year 2020.

For Illinois, TIA Research Director Bill Bergman said the amount owed per taxpayer went from about $30,000 in 2009 to $57,000 in the most recent report.

“In other words, it’s almost doubled since 2009,” Bergman said. “That’s significant for a few reasons, including the beginning of that period was in the middle of the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression and Illinois has only deteriorated since then despite the massive recovery in financial markets since 2009. That’s scary.”

Only two other states were in worse financial condition than Illinois. New Jersey’s taxpayer burden is at $58,300 and Connecticut’s burden is at $62,500 per taxpayer. Only 11 states had taxpayer surpluses. The rest are considered “Sinkhole States” by TIA.

Read more here.

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Arlington

Arlington Park will host its last races of 2021 — and perhaps forever — on Saturday. Except for a postrace fireworks show and historical videos in-between races, there are no special ceremonies scheduled to mark the closing.

At 6:12 p.m. Saturday, a field of a dozen horses will enter the starting gates for quite possibly the final time at Illinois’ grand racing palace.

The name of the race for fillies and mares 3 years and older?

Luxembourg, in tribute to the equine who won the inaugural race at Arlington Park on Oct. 13, 1927.

Once the horses cross the finish line of the 5½-furlong turf course race Saturday evening — the ninth on the card that day — there’s sure to be pictures in the winner’s circle with the winning horse, jockey, trainer and owner.

But track management isn’t planning any special ceremonies or commemorations on the final day — save for a 7:45 p.m. fireworks show and a few historical videos on TV screens in between races — despite discussions earlier this year with village officials to do something bigger.

“Really, it’s just to go out with grace,” said Arlington Park President Tony Petrillo, during a brief interview Thursday afternoon after an Illinois Racing Board meeting. “Our focus is on the experience that we have to deliver to people.”

“The chapter to this book is still to be written,” Petrillo added.

Read more here.

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DL App

Services such as behind-the-wheel driving tests and standard driver’s licenses now require appointments at certain Illinois Secretary of State facilities.

Questions such as “do you have an appointment?”, and the occasional letdown, “all our appointments are full,” circulated Friday outside the driver services facility in Lombard.

That’s because the Illinois Secretary of State’s office this month is retooling a variety of procedures to avoid crowds and lines at DMVs caused by COVID-19 backlogs.

What that means is, as of Monday, many Illinoisans will need to make appointments for services such as behind-the-wheel road tests, REAL IDs, standard driver’s licenses, and ID cards at certain locations. The change was rolled out earlier at some sites.

Appointments for those services are required at the following locations: Aurora, Bridgeview, Des Plaines, Joliet, Lake Zurich, Lombard, Melrose Park, Midlothian, Naperville, Plano, Schaumburg, Waukegan and Woodstock, plus three Chicago offices.

Scheduling can be done online at ilsos.gov or by phone at (844) 817-4649.

Walk-ins are still allowed for people seeking vehicle titles, or for renewing license plate stickers — but please don’t, officials say, since stickers are easily obtainable online. Customers can also order duplicate licenses and driving records on the ilsos.gov website.

At the same time, Secretary of State Jesse White is introducing a new program estimated to allow thousands of safe drivers to renew their licenses or ID cards remotely.

Read more here.

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Dr. Tom Leonard

Former District 220 superintendent Tom Leonard is now, “…superintendent of the highly acclaimed Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas.”

Illinois spends more on pensions than any other state and a new report highlights the cost of so-called “double-dippers” who collect a full pension and get another job.

The nonprofit Wirepoints cites a former Illinois school superintendent who retired with a $230,000 pension before taking another position in Texas.

With an automatic 3% yearly raise, Tom Leonard will receive about $6.4 million in pension benefits from Illinois taxpayers based on actuarial assumptions when his annual Illinois pension jumps to $370,000 a year. According to the report, Leonard contributed a total of $322,000 to the Illinois Teacher’s Retirement System over the course of his career.

“They are not doing anything wrong; it is what the lawmakers allow them to do,” Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski said. “I critique the lawmakers for allowing people to be able to retire that early and get a full pension and get jobs.”

The official shortfall at Illinois’ five state-run pension funds, which includes state workers, judges, teachers and university employees, increased to $144 billion in 2020, up $7 billion from the year before, according to a report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

Moody’s Investors Service had a different take on the amount, putting Illinois’ net pension liabilities at closer to $317 billion.

Read more here.

Related:Barrington District 220 superintendent Leonard leaving in June

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IDOC

Several suburban communities are among 74 small towns throughout Illinois slated to receive a portion of more than $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief grants.

The grants were announced Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. These towns will receive another $40 million next year.

More than $742 million is available to small towns throughout Illinois, Pritzker said. Only about half the eligible towns have applied so far.

Some of the grant recipients are:

  • Village of Barrington Hills: $284,803.12
  • South Barrington: $339,588.64

The grant applications are available through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Eligible uses for the money include COVID-19 response, replacing lost revenue, economic stabilization for residents and businesses, and addressing inequality in the impact of the pandemic.

The full list of recipients is available on the DCEO website, illinois.gov/dceo.

Read more here.

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CUSD 220

Barrington School District 220 was awarded $6 million in federal funds to assist the district with its response to and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, district officials have reported.

The money is from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) as part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act. SD220 held a public hearing earlier this summer to hear from district stakeholders, including parents, on how the money would be used for the 12 schools and more than 8,500 students in the district.

There was little board member comment and no remarks on the subject from the large audience that had gathered at the board meeting. The crowd attended to share concerns about students wearing masks during the new school year.

District 220 is planning to return to full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, officials previously announced. The new academic year starts Friday.

Bein said the district’s ESSER Fund spending plan includes $1.2 million for social, emotional learning support, as well as $1.3 million for student learning Additionally, $200,000 was spent on summer school this year and there are plans to provide staff materials in SEL support.

Read more here.

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CD Arlington

Craig Duchossois talks to the Daily Herald during at Arlington Park Saturday August 14, 2021 in Arlington Heights. (Brian Hill | Staff Photographer)

Amid the pageantry of the final Arlington Million Day — a day to honor Dick Duchossois and his family for their contributions to horse racing — Duchossois’ son blamed not Arlington Park owner Churchill Downs Inc. but Illinois politicians for the planned destruction of the grand racing palace his father built.

Craig Duchossois, his father’s longtime right-hand man in family business matters, called Saturday’s tributes at the racetrack bittersweet and emotional after what he said has been the family’s “enjoyable but challenging” journey in Illinois racing and politics. His father, Arlington Park’s 99-year-old chairman emeritus, was at his Barrington Hills home, where he’s spent most of his time since the onset of the pandemic.

“I have no faith in our government in Illinois at all, including Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker. Springfield is a bigger swamp than Washington, if that’s possible,” Craig Duchossois said during an exclusive interview with the Daily Herald from his family’s grandstand suite.

Duchossois said Pritzker’s 2019 massive gambling expansion that awarded long-sought slots and table games to racetracks like Arlington came “too late.”

By then, Churchill Downs had already acquired a majority interest in nearby Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, and it soon declined to apply for the gambling positions at Arlington, which could have helped boost purse accounts for horse races.

“If they would’ve gotten their head out of the sand and done it 5 or 10 years earlier, whole different ballgame,” Duchossois said. “Who knows what would have happened then. But at least we would’ve been given the chance to compete fairly, and they didn’t allow that. And now they’re saying Churchill is at fault? That just doesn’t make any sense.”

Read more here.

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Speed Cameras

A speed camera on East Morgan Drive in Chicago’s Washington Park issued the most citations in the city in the first two months after Mayor Lori Lightfoot lowered the minimum speed for getting a ticket to 6 mph over the limit. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Here’s an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune story:

“As it’s currently run, the speed camera program nabs thousands of drivers in a variety of neighborhoods:

  • In the Far South Side West Pullman neighborhood, a camera on 127th Street issued 7,881 of the $35 tickets during the first two months in which the city gave less leeway to speeders.
  • A camera a block north of Lawrence on Cicero Avenue dinged 10,819 drivers under the new rules.
  • Closer to the lake, 7,992 of the $35 tickets were sent out from a camera in the 1100 block of West Irving Park Road.
  • On the West Side, 4,273 motorists got caught by a camera in the 5800 block of West Jackson Boulevard.

In all, there are 162 cameras in 69 “safety zones” within one-eighth a mile of a Chicago school or park, but not all of them are always operating. The March and April data the city provided tallied tickets issued from 158 cameras.

With some cameras deactivated while schools are closed for the summer, there are currently 119 of the devices recording vehicle speeds and issuing tickets, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.”

Read the full story here,

Related: Chicago begins issuing tickets to motorists going 6 mph over the speed limit today. What you need to know…

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Butter Cow

Gov. Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker unveil the Illinois State Fair’s 2021 butter cow.

SPRINGFIELD – The final preparation for the opening of the 2021 Illinois State Fair (which begins today) took place Wednesday with the traditional unveiling of the butter cow.

This year’s sculpture, which marks the 100th anniversary of the fair’s butter cow, is entitled “Embracing Tradition.” It features a dairy farmer embracing a cow. Hidden within the sculpture are 13 hearts, signifying the 13 essential nutrients found naturally in milk.

“After a year where the world stopped, I felt including an exhibitor embracing the cow signifies the joy our youth are experiencing as they return to the fair,” butter cow sculptor Sarah Pratt, of Iowa, said in a news release. “You only get one chance to celebrate the 100th anniversary and I hope this year’s Butter Cow will invoke those feelings of nostalgia people have experienced for generations.”

Gov. JB Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker took part in the ceremony along with Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II, Midwest Dairy Association board member Donald Mackinson, and this year’s Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Kelsi Kessler.

Read more here.

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Plum Farms

The Executive Director of the Hoffman Estates Park District will be providing a report on Plum Farms this evening to the BHPD Commissioners.

The Barrington Hills Park District Board will hold their regular monthly meeting this evening in-person and via Zoom at 7:00 PM.  Some of the topics on their agenda include:

  • Hoffman Estates Park District Executive Director report on Plum Farms
  • Motion to adopt and approve a Sexual Harassment Policy
  • New outdoor arena, motion to proceed with bidding process
  • Purchase of trees & shrubs for the Riding Center grounds
  • Footing complaints affecting all arenas, and
  • The need for final footing authority?

A copy of their agenda can be viewed here. Instructions for accessing the meeting remotely can be found here.

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