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Monroe County Council Gives More Life to West Side TIF District

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The Monroe County Council voted four to three Tuesday night to support extending the life of the West Side TIF district by 15 years. The Council also showed approval for issuing a $3.5 million bond to pay for road projects there. A TIF district allows the local government to spend property tax collected within the district exclusively on projects in that area. The Council meeting was held at the same time as a meeting of the County Plan Commission, which was addressing the same issue. At one point, the Council temporarily adjourned its meeting to attend the Plan Commission meeting and await its decision on the issue. After the Plan Commission approved the TIF proposal, the Council resumed its meeting. Before opening up debate on the issue, the Council heard from Greg Guerretaz, a consulting auditor to the county Redevelopment Commission. Guerretaz discussed tax revenues and expenditures within the west-side TIF. One issue of concern he addressed was the potential departure of the General Electric facility from the district.

“No matter what we talk about on this bond issue, we have to be concerned with GE” Guerretaz explains. “Its not to protect the bond holders its to protect, ultimately, the county”

Guerrataz then explained the rationale behind the proposed amount of the $3.5 million dollar bond. He said there is a need to balance anticipated expenditure needs with anticipated tax revenue, to cover annual bond interest payments. He also talked about why the Redevelopment Commission, which controls TIF tax revenues, had never released any of its TIF revenue to other local tax assessing bodies, such as the Richland Bean Blossom Community School Corporation. Council member Marty Hawk commented on this policy.

“I just have to say the people in Richland and Beanblossom would appreciate a tax relief even if it was occasionally” Hawk had to say about the TIF Policy”

The proposed bond is to help build a road between Daniel’s Way and Hartstraight Road. The county highway department estimates the project will cost four-point-one million dollars. Council president Cheryl Munson asked about this and other possible road projects in the TIF district.

“One thing, that I think is very important and I’m not sure is well understood that has to do with the project, is that the bond will fund”, Muson says.

County Attorney Jeff Cockerill re-iterated that the prime project is the Daniel’s Way-Hartstraight extension. Richland Bean Blossom school district superintendent Mike Wilcox and School Board president Dana Kerr again re-iterated their opposition to the west-side TIF extension and bond, due to the loss of tax revenue to the district. Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president Jim Shelton and Redevelopment Commission chairman Lynn Coyne spoke in favor of the TIF extension and the bond, saying they would stimulate economic expansion and job creation in the district. In the end, the County Council voted four to three to approve the three-point-five million dollar bond.

Cancer Charities Accused of Fraud; 137 Million Dollar Settlement Already Agreed Upon

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has joined a national lawsuit against four cancer charities accused of scamming millions of dollars from donors. That’s according to a press release from the AG’s office. The plaintiffs include the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The FTC has accused the charities of squandering donations on personal expenses, including cruises and dating site memberships. According to the New York Times, the charities collected $187 million between 2008 and 2012, but spent less than 3% on actual aid. They are also accused of filing fraudulent statements with state regulators and making false claims in promotional materials. Two of the charities have already agreed to a $137 million settlement, and will be dissolved. Funds recovered in the settlements will be distributed to the states for donation to legitimate charities. The charities accused of fraud are the Cancer Fund of America, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and The Breast Cancer Society.

Bloomington City Council Borrows $48 Million Dollars for TIF District

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The Bloomington City Council voted last night to borrow up to forty-eight million dollars for the city’s Redevelopment District, also known as the downtown TIF district. The bond funds are to be used to finance infrastructure work in the district. Mayor Mark Kruzan lobbied for the measure at the May 13th meeting of the council. Kruzan spoke again last night.

“Bloomington Indiana in the last decade with this councils support and some of your predecessors have faced down a recession to invest in itself,” Kruzan explains.

About two-thirds of the bond funds — or twenty-five million dollars — are to be spent on the Switchyard Park Development on Bloomington’s south-side. Other priorities include rehabilitation of the city-owned Buskirk-Chumley Theater, promoting construction of affordable housing and installing infrastructure in the Certified Technology Park. A portion of the money is also intended for improvements to city parks, renovation of the animal shelter, and police department and sanitation facilities.

iCan Bicycle Camp Rides into Bloomington

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A bicycle camp for disabled children and young adults is coming to Bloomington this August. The deadline to sign up for the iCan Bike Camp is June 15th with ten spots left. Organizing Committee Member Deborah Meyerson explains the basics of the program.

“It’s designed to help kids with disabilities to ride a two wheeled bike”, Meyerson explains.

Professionals of the national non-profit “iCan Shine” program will host the program with the help of local volunteers. Volunteers must be able to commit to ninety minutes each of the five days and able to walk and jog alongside participants during the three-mile course. This is the first iCan Shine program to take place in Bloomington.

“It’s a real source of independence for kids” Meyerson explains. “Its a wonderful oppurtunity for kids to participate in the community.”

The camp will begin on August 17th at the Frank Southern Ice Arena.

Purdue and IU freeze tuition

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Last week, Purdue University announced it would freeze tuition for a fourth year in a row. And today, IU indicated it would follow suit. IU president Michael McRobbie recommended in a statement today that IU not increase tuition for in-state students for the next two years. The IU Board of Trustees will make a final decision on that request June third. McRobbie’s recommendation comes on the heels of Purdue Trustees approving a fourth year of a tuition freeze at that school. Purdue has frozen the rate of tuition since the 2012-2013 school year and plans on offering the same rate through the 2015-2016 academic year.

A tuition freeze would be something of a change to IU’s past approach. IU Spokesman Mark Land said yesterday that while IU has not offered an across-the-board tuition freeze recently, it has set a fixed rate for some students. There isn’t a huge difference between the two universities’ tuition for in-state students. Full-time Purdue students can expect a rate of $10,002 per year, while IU students can expect to pay $10,388 a year. At Purdue out-of-state students pay $28,804, while IU is more costly at $33,240 a year. Land says in the past IU has offered other strategies to help its students with affordability.

At Purdue, the recent tuition freeze also came with a proposed 3.5 percent merit pay increase for employees at its West Lafayette campus. Purdue Trustees also approved an increase in entry-level wages to $10 per hour for all full-time clerical and service staff. The minimum wage at IU is lower, at just $8.25 per hour. Purdue, however, pays its part-time employees, many of them students, as little as $7.25 an hour. Land says there has been talk of future wage increases at IU.

IU trustees will take public comment on tuition recommendations at their meeting Wednesday, June 3rd. Public comments begins at 3:30 p.m. in Room 450A of the IUPUI Campus Center in Indianapolis.

IU Sociology Professor releases study contradicting previous claims

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An Indiana University Sociology professor has just released a study contradicting previous claims that lesbians and gay men make bad parents. Professor Brian Powell partnered with the sociology department at the University of Connecticut to reanalyze the claims that children of same-sex parents have negative social, emotional and relational outcomes. The original study is known as the Regnerous Papers. It was conducted at the University of Texas in 2012. And, according to Powell, that study misrepresented its subjects and skewed results to favor heterosexual parents.

Professor Mark Regnerous of Texas University performed the original study. Powell says Regnerous has since used his findings to influence the legal system. While the original study has been used to try to hinder same-sex couples from becoming parents, Professor Powell says the study’s negative findings against same-sex parents has no footing. Powell says that the original study relied on responses from subjects that were inconsistent and illogical.

One respondent was a man who claimed his father’s gay lover was seven feet 8 inches tall, weighed 88 pounds, was married eight times and had eight children. Another claimed to have been arrested as an infant. Other respondents said they never lived with their same-sex parents or only lived with them for a very short time. Powell says responses like those should have never been included in study.

Local Residents Set to be Surveyed about Monroe County Community Schools

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The Monroe County Community School Corporation is planning to survey local residents about their views on education issues. Superintendent Judy DeMuth told the school board about the survey at a work session May 12th.

“We have added a couple of questions, one that really targets preschool and of course a question about technology”,  Demuth explains about the new survey.

DeMuth says this phone survey will also include questions on the referendum the Board is considering putting before voters. The referendum would request a temporary increase in property tax rates to help the Corporation cover budget shortfalls. DeMuth says her office is still working on the wording of the referendum and when to put it up for a vote. The Board will have the final decision on the referendum.

County Employee Salaries Under Review

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Monroe County is comparing itself to other government bodies to find out how much County employees should be paid. The County Council has approved a letter of engagement with a company that will perform the salary review. The firm, Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele and Associates, will study of salaries and benefits paid to staff by comparable government bodies. During discussion on the resolution, Council member Geoff McKim said the study has been needed for some time.

“We have a lot to do on our salary structure” Mckim explains. “One of the first steps in moving forward is that we need to get an external calibration system on the salaries”.

Council member Lee Jones suggested the County is underpaying at least some of its employees. But she warned it might be difficult to correct the issue.

“I agree that just because we may discover we are severely underpaying people it doesn’t necessarily mean that we will that we will be able to pay them what they deserve” Lee Jones’s responds.

The salary study will take 4 to 5 months, according to the letter approved by the Council. The County will pay the researchers between forty-five and a hundred twenty-five dollars per hour for their work.

Assistant Director For Student Conduct In The Office Of Student Ethics Arrested For Possession Of Child Pornography

Bloomington police announced this afternoon they had arrested an Indiana University administrator for possession of child pornography. Police arrested 32-year-old Jon T. Riveire yesterday. Riveire is an Assistant Director for Student Conduct in the Office of Student Ethics at Indiana University.  According to a press release from the Bloomington Police Department, he was targeted for investigation as the result of a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Policy say they found 30 images of child pornography on a university-owned laptop that Riveire used.

A Rise In Ticks Brings A Greater Risk Of Infection

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In the past it was rare to find lone star or blacklegged ticks in southern Indiana. However over the last 15 years those insects have become mainstays in the region. And in the next 10 years their presence in the region is expected to increase. This is all according to a new study done by IU biology professor Keith Clay. Lab testing showed that one to three percent of ticks in the area carry harmful pathogens. And while those in southern Indiana haven’t been found to carry the pathogen for Lyme disease, some in northern areas have. Clay sees possible problems in the future if these population trends hold true.  He says that as the density of the ticks increase it is more likely that people will get bit and that they will then be bit by a tick that is carrying a pathogen.

Evelyn Rynkiewicz  is a former doctoral student in Clay’s lab at IU. She says these ticks must stay attached to humans for a couple of days to transmit a pathogen. To avoid giving ticks a chance to attach, Rynkiewicz advises people stay vigilant and take proper precautions, as her team did while conducting field research.  She says that they make a point of wearing long pants and tucking them into their socks so that the ticks do not have a point of entry.

Clay says the current weather in southern Indiana is favorable for ticks. There are many theories on why the tick population in southern Indiana is growing. The three biggest in Clay’s mind are climate change, human alteration of the landscape and an increased deer population that is likely to support more ticks.

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