The McLean County proposed FY 2013 budget. (Eric Stock/WJBC)
By Ryan Denham
Five Things You Should Know for Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012:
We've seen it with Unit 5 and District 87, and now we're seeing it in McLean County government: The stagnant property tax base is affecting government operations. The county's proposed $79 million budget, presented Tuesday, is weighed down by the fact that the county's equalized assessed valuation, or EAV, has dropped for the first time since 1985. Sales and income tax revenue are starting to rebound, but not property taxes, which tend to lag. The budget proposes an increase in the property tax rate that'll boost the tax bill by about $5 for a typical homeowner, but even that won't cover the entire drop in property values; two positions are being cut. "Now you are seeing the back end of the recession process ... but clearly it's going to be a couple of additional years before we see the upside of equalized assessed valuation," said County Administrator Bill Wasson.
The Illinois High School Association has reached an agreement with a 16-year-old disabled student who was at the center of a lawsuit earlier this year. The group Equip for Equality, along with the Illinois attorney general's office, sued the IHSA, because swimmer Mary Kate Callahan of LaGrange couldn't win points for her team in IHSA competitions and didn't have the option of competing in separate categories for disabled swimmers. Now, IHSA will allow disabled swimmers to compete in the 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke. But the attorney general's office says the issue is far from over. "This is a good initial step to allow Mary Kate and others to swim this fall, but it still leaves open a tremendous number of outstanding issues that need to be addressed -- all the other sports teams and the question of how disabled athletes can earn points for their team," a spokeswoman said.
WJBC's agribusiness director, Carrie Muehling, has a story Wednesday about a newly constructed training facility for farmers just west of Bloomington. The Asmark Agricenter is operated in partnership with the Asmark Institute, a nonprofit that helps agricultural retailers with regulatory compliance. The training center sounds really neat, with areas devoted to anhydrous ammonia, pesticide application and grain handling. But the most interesting part of the story are the comments from Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, who candidly lays out the business-driven reasons for building the Asmark Institute. "While agriculture is a huge part of the economy, it doesn't get a lot of attention from the standpoint of programs to help agriculture. We really are kind of responsible for a lot of that ourselves," Payne said.
Our First Amendment debate of the day centers around Rich Township High School guidance counselor and former girls basketball coach Bryan Craig, who was fired Tuesday. His termination stems from a racy book about women and relationships called "It's Her Fault" that irked community members and, eventually, school officials, the Chicago Tribune's Ryan Haggerty and Alicia Fabbre report. Without having read the book, I cannot delve too deeply into the substance of the case -- whether it's sexist or inappropriate for someone who works around teenagers. But Craig's attorney, Stephen Richards, says his client doesn't intend to just drop the matter. "He has not committed a dischargeable offense," Richards said. "We don't believe he's violated the school rules. His publication of the book was an exercise of his First Amendment rights."
Buzzfeed, the website once known primarily as an aggregator of funny animal photos and other pop-culture imagery, is becoming a legitimate source for political reporting. Buzzfeed staffer John Stanton takes a look at a few glaring examples of just how phony political TV advertisements can be. One hilarious example comes from Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican who is challenging U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler. Instead of using an actual coal miner to rail against Chandler and President Barack Obama, Barr's campaign found a coal executive -- then put him in a T-shirt, bib overalls and a miners hat. "You have a pencil pusher acting like a coal miner," UMWA’s Kentucky Vice President Steve Earle told the Lexington Herald-Leader, via Buzzfeed. All in all, sure, the ads are no phonier than the commercials that are trying to sell me a new phone or a laundry detergent. But that phone and laundry detergent aren't trying to represent me in Congress.
Ryan Denham can be reached at email@example.com.