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Local Legislators Discuss Issues To Be Introduced This Session

Today was the deadline for lawmakers to file bills in the state legislature, and some local representatives are already preparing for a big debate over education funding.

At a forum on January 10, legislators from the Monroe County area said money for schools would be one the biggest issues this legislative session. The officials spoke at a legislative update sponsored by the local League of Women Voters.

State Rep. Matt Pierce (D) whose district includes most of Bloomington said both major political parties agree there should be changes to the formula the state uses to fund public schools.

“You have rural, suburban and urban schools that often have stable or declining enrollments,” Pierce said. “The question is, how will the formula impact those schools? Some schools have more kids from poverty and usually more money is gevn to those schools to help children that may be struggling with things that get in the way of their learning.”

Under the current funding formula, public schools in Gary and Indianapolis receive larger amounts of funding per pupil than most other districts.

Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R) said he expects some conflict over how the formula is changed.

“I think the one thing as Pierce pointed out that’s going to be critical is the funding formula for schools,” Ubelhor says. “In our caucus one child isn’t worth more than another child, no matter where the go to school.”

The two parties are also expected to disagree on how to fund charter schools and school vouchers. Democrats like Pierce have traditionally opposed the trend toward funding those programs, which draw money away from public schools.

While there is disagreement on education, representatives from both parties seemed to agree more closely about funding for criminal justice programs. Last year the legislature made major changes to the criminal code in hopes of diverting some low-level offenders away from prison. Those offenders are instead supposed to be dealt with on a local level, but Pierce said the state has yet to adequately fund those local programs.

“The issue is will the people crafting the budget put money into those programs so we can get them going,” Pierce says. “I’m a little dismayed because the Governor’s budget hasn’t earmarked money for those programs. And, instead, calls for more money to be spent about $51 million to add new prison beds to the Department of Corrections which doesn’t make any sense because we just passed this bill to get people out of there.”

Ubelhor said he also agreed the state should fund the local programs. Officials in the Monroe County government have voiced public concern in recent months about the issue. The County’s Community Corrections Department expects an influx of offenders to its programs.

Monroe County would also be directly affected by another initiative discussed at the legislative update. State Senator Mark Stoops said he plans to file a bill that would help Bloomington Transit expand its services outside the city.

“We hope to make it more of a regional transit system,” Stoops says. “We want to add an income tax to people in the region that would allow Bloomington and Rural transit to provide routes into the rural communities like Smithville, Elletsville and even hopefully Nashville or Bedford.”

Stoops said the expanded service could be useful to commuters and could reduce traffic on local roads.

Daily Local News (每日地方新闻) Dec 17,2014 – Indiana University will begin offering in-state tuition rates to veterans (IU 将降低学费 吸引老兵)


Indiana University will begin offering in-state tuition rates to qualifying veterans and family members starting with the Fall semester of 2015

Monroe County Public Library to Open New Branch


The Monroe County Public Library has plans for opening a third branch. Library Director Sara Laughlin explained the long-term project to the Monroe County Council at a Council meeting December 9th. She said it would be at least several years before the new branch would open. The Library currently has two branches, one in downtown Bloomington and the other in Ellettsville.

Laughlin said she believes the Library is not adequately serving all County residents. She showed the Council a map indicating the percentage of residents with Library cards throughout the County.

Laughlin went on to say the next branch would probably be located in the southwestern part of Monroe County. She said that is the fastest growing area and she thinks the development of Interstate 69 will only further that trend.

Laughlin made the statements during a presentation about a $2 million loan the Library plans take out. The loan would include money that could be spent on land for a new branch as well as funds for an addition to the Ellettsville library, new equipment at Community Access Television Services and other expenses. Several members of the Council, including Cheryl Munson and Lee Jones, said they were excited about a third branch.

The Council later voted unanimously in favor of the $2 million Library bond. Later in the meeting the Council heard a request to expand the staff at the County’s Youth Services Bureau. The Bureau runs the Binkley House Emergency Youth Shelter among other responsibilities. For months Bureau Director Kim Meyer has said her staff is overworked. She asked for two more full-time staff members and extra hours for a third position. Council President Geoff McKim said the County could run into trouble with the fund it uses to pay for many of the Bureau’s activities.

The County just raised the rate for the Juvenile County Option Income Tax earlier this year to provide more funding to youth services. The Council later voted to approve the new positions.

Duke Energy Offers Financial Assistance Program

Hoosiers who need help paying their energy bills this winter may be able to take advantage of a program sponsored by Duke Energy. The company is contributing seven hundred thousand dollars and Duke Energy customers have contributed an additional eighty-seven thousand dollars.
Duke Energy partners with South Central Community Action Program to qualify eligible customers. Eligibility is based solely on income. Customers can get more information online at or by calling South Central Community Action Program at 812-339-3447. Last year the program helped more than six thousand Hoosiers.

Governor Announces Federal Grant Payments for Previous Winter’s Storm

The office of Governor Mike Pence announced in a press release today, December 9th, that a little more than $4.6 million in total federal grants has been paid so far to help local communities and the state of Indiana recover from the 2014 January fifth (5)-through-ninth (9) winter storm. These include thirty (30) Indiana counties, though as yet Monroe County has received no reimbursements. These grants are in the forms of public assistance and/or specifically snow assistance. Public assistance will pay 75 percent of eligible expenses for damage to roads, bridges, utilities, debris removal, damages to buildings’ contents and equipment, and water-control facilities, among other things. Snow assistance covers all eligible costs for either the 48-hour or 72-hour period of the storm associated with the higher costs. Applications from communities are still being processed by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (or FEMA). Said Governor Pence: QUOTE “While that [2014] storm is for many a distant memory, we at the state continue to work through the demanding process to make the most of the disaster funding opportunities available to communities in those 30 counties.”

State Awards $30 Million to High-Performance Teachers

In its first-ever distribution of teacher performance grants, or bonuses, the State of Indiana has awarded $30 million in grants to high-performance teachers in more than 1,300 schools . Governor Mike Pence recommended the concept of school/teacher performance awards in his 2013 budget. Criteria for the teacher grants were included in a complex formula of average student ISTEP-plus test performances, graduation rates compared to the previous year, and end-of-the courses assessments with students’ passing rates of 72.5 percent or better. To be eligible, teachers had to be rated effective or highly effective under the Indiana Teacher Evaluation System for the 2013-14 calendar year.

IUPUI Approves New 700 Student Residential Hall

A new residence hall at IUPUI has been approved by the IU Board of Trustees. The 172,000 square foot building will have two residential wings, which will house 700 students. Made mostly of brick and glass, the building’s design includes a dining hall, a multipurpose media room, a semi-enclosed courtyard, two classrooms, space for activities and fitness, a computer lab and game and laundry rooms.
The building will accommodate IUPUI’s growing student population. According to a press release, campus housing is at capacity. At the beginning of this school year, more than 800 students were on a waitlist to live on campus.
Construction is expected to cost $45.2 million and will be paid for with funds from IUPUI. The project will be complete in summer 2016.

Ball State Economist Predicts A Strong Economic Performance

Last week Ball State University economist Michael Hicks released an economic forecast for 2015. The report shows separate predictions for the United States, Indiana and East Central Indiana.
The forecast suggests that conditions will improve in the coming year, with gross domestic product and job growth higher than it was in 2014. He predicts that job growth will increase overall next year, and wrote that the unemployment rate will decline to 5.7 percent by the end of 2015.
The forecast anticipates that Indiana’s GDP will outstrip the nation by more than half a percent in 2015. Personal income growth is also expected to increase in Indiana, while the income gap between Indiana and the entire U.S. is expected to shrink.
Job creation should accelerate by the end of 2015, according to the report. Projections say that between 90,000 and 120,000 jobs will be created per month. At the same time, though, the number of unemployed is expected to rise. Nearly a third of these new jobs are seasonal or low-paying, and do not provide many benefits to workers.
Hicks writes that wage growth is “uneven,” which can “brake growth of household consumption and investment over the coming year.”
Hicks’ data comes from his own calculations, which are based on sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hicks writes that while 2015 will be “the best year of economic performance since 2007,” growth will be gradual. The United States may be in the slowest period of growth it has seen in generations

Political Yard Signs Recognized as Violating the Law


Last week, The Monroe County Election Board discussed problems with political yard signs in the lead up to the midterm election. The members said an unusually large number of the signs were placed on public property, which is against the law. Board member Lorraine Farrell explained the current rules.

The Board discussed implementing a policy to fine people who violate the rule. But they said it would be difficult to enforce. Robbins also questioned whether the Election Board has the authority to set that kind of rule.

The Board push forward on a policy to penalize violators. Instead they agreed to send out reminders about the yard sign rules before candidates officially file for the municipal elections next year.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Will Host Red Cross Book Fair

A committee of former Red Cross Book Fair volunteers has completed its selection process for a new host for the popular book fair fund-raiser annually held at the Monroe County Fair Grounds.

The new host and organizer is the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

Noting that Hoosier Hills in the past has conducted a food drive during the book fair, its director, Julio Alonso, noted that this was a logical move for both Hoosier Hills and the book fair.

The next step will be to move the remaining books and book book fair supplies from the American Red Cross Chapter House to new sorting facilities and reorganize book fair volunteers

Just as with the food bank, the book fair will continue to rely on funds and volunteers’ time as well as corporate sponsors and extensive marketing to alert the public to the book fair’s new host. Hoosier Hills is immediately prepared to accept book donations at its office at 2333 West Industrial Park Drive Mondays-through-Fridays from 9-5 PM.  If citizens plan to donate more than one or two boxes of books, they are asked to call ahead to Hoosier Hills at 812-334-8374. Future book collection events are also planned for various places in the Bloomington community.

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