Good Samaritan Society - Mt. Carroll Awards Scholarships
Good Samaritan Society-Mount Caroll encourages and supports staff that are committed to the center while also being committed to their personal and professional growth. Pictured from left: Rachel Allen, CNA, Bricelynn Myers, CNA, and Samantha Sumption, CNA each received a $500 scholarship from Cathy Smikle, administrator for their continuing education.
Tree is a Symbol of Life
Because the tree is a symbol of life, West Carroll Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) decorated the high school Christmas tree with their positive messages of living free of the hazards and heartache of alcohol and other drugs.
They also included remembrances of those who have died or been injured in alcohol-related crashes and wishes for everyone to have a safe holiday season and a hopeful new year.
(Courtesy of Freddie Preston, Project Assistant CCSEC)
Eastland Elementary Raises Funds for St. Jude
The second session of the Eastland Elementary 6th Grade Literacy Council voted to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to purchase books, games, toys and activities for children in the hospital. A penny war was held from December 9th – 13th, with an ice cream party for the class bringing in the most money. A check will be sent to St. Jude for $1,000.50. Mrs. Schroeder’s fifth grade class earned the ice cream party. A big thank you to everyone who donated! Pictured L to R, back row – Jayden Day, Dani Rush, Rachel Wilczynski, Emma Norton. Front row – Shelby Beyers, Sasha Popowski, Anna Wilhelm, Ira Markley. On the floor – Theo Woessner and Rebecca Kempel. Absent – Stephen Reifsteck. (Courtesy EES)
Jr. Steward Christmas Bird Count
On Saturday December 7, six members of the Jr. Stewards and their parents participated in the annual Jr. Steward Christmas bird count. With the help of Stewards of the Upper Mississippi the junior birders saw more than 1300 birds. They saw hundreds of Bald Eagles, ducks, gulls, chickadees, a hawk, a Barred owl, and other types of birds. Members also received a field guide titled “ Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East.” Photo is of the group at Lock and Dam 13 watching the Bald Eagles.
(Courtesy of Jacob McLuckie, 5th Grader, Savanna IL)
Warm Clothing for Families in Need
Mount Carroll Ministerial Association members (from left) Laura Smith, Pastor Paul Figie, Cathy Smikle, Good Samaritan Society administrator, and Pastor Elizabeth Mascal accept warm clothing for families in need. Community members and GSS staff donated winter clothing to the drive conducted by Good Samaritan Society-Mount Carroll. Items were donated and distributed to the Ministerial Association and to the TCOC Head Start program located in Thomson, IL.
HCC Careers to Consider Day
Hewitt Dameier (right), a freshman at Lena-Winslow High School, checks the oil in a car as Jim Palmer, automotive and Technology Instructor, watches during a hands-on learning experience held Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, for Careers to Consider Day held at Highland Community College in Freeport.
It was hands-on learning Tuesday, December 17 at Highland Community College for students from Lena-Winslow and Pecatonica High Schools.
The more than 30 participants attended four separate 70-minute sessions to explore careers in automotive, cosmetology, electronics, nursing, physical science and wind technology. The freshman and sophomores, were tapped for this day early in their high school career to think beyond and be able to see what Highland has to offer.
Scott Anderson, Dean of Business and Technology at Highland said, “This day gives these young people some in-depth, hands-on experience directly related to some core career pathways.”
Of the four sessions attended by the students, Anderson chose two of the sessions to ensure that each participant had an experience in some non-traditional careers, such as women in automotive and men in cosmetology.
Jim Palmer, Automotive and Technology Instructor helped showed Lena-Winslow student Hewitt Dameier how to check fluids under the hood of a car. Palmer said, “What I showed the students is that the automotive industry is not going to go away, and with today’s cars, many students haven’t had a hands-on experience yet, but what we showed them today was from the ground up, and they start out with the real deal.”
Heart Warming Project at Big Meadows
On Tuesday December 17, the Warming Hearts project at Big Meadows Nursing Home delivered over 600 handmade fleece hats to the preschool through 5th grades at West Carroll. Warming Hearts is spear headed by Mary Jane Jacobs, a nurse at Big Meadows. Mary Jane does the majority of the sewing of the hats and the residents help cut and tie them. Fleece for the project is purchased through donations and proceeds made from tree bling that is available for sale at Big Meadows. This is the third year for the project. The project warms the children through the hats and the hearts of the residents and those involved through seeing the smiles they bring. Mary Jane also as part of a Warming Hearts project made a large delivery of over 100 hats to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN children’s ward.
Front Row: Marlene Farrey and Phyllis Young. Back row: Carla Seigwarth and Mary Jane Jacobs. (Photo and article submitted by Jaime Zastrow)
Secretary of State Offices to Close for New Year’s Day
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that all offices and Driver Services facilities will be closed on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, for New Year’s Day.
All Driver Services facilities, including those that are normally open Tuesday through Saturday, will reopen for regular business on Thursday, January 2, 2014.
Individuals can visit the Secretary of State’s website, www.cyberdriveillinois.com, to locate the nearest Driver Services facility and the hours of operation. In addition, drivers can change an address, register to become an organ and tissue donor or renew license plate stickers by mail.
Snowmobile Operators: Play it Safe This Winter
Practicing safety and using common sense prevents accidents
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding snowmobile operators and riders to take extra caution this year when snow falls in Illinois. Every year throughout the state, people are seriously injured or lose their lives on snowmobiles. Many of these accidents could have been prevented had reasonable and proper precautions been taken.
In most instances, being alert and sober, knowing the trail, and traveling at a reasonable rate of speed for trail conditions can prevent most accidents. In North America, more than 50 percent of snowmobile fatalities involve intoxicated operators.
Last season (2012-2013) in Illinois, 34 reported snowmobile accidents resulted in three fatalities.
“Most snowmobile accidents or fatalities we see could have been prevented had common sense and safety been practiced before and during the ride,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “It doesn’t matter what your intentions are before you set out to ride – if you aren’t prepared, accidents are more likely to happen.”
While IDNR encourages everyone to take a snowmobile safety class before their first ride of the season, state law requires that persons at least 12 years of age and less than 16 years must have in possession a valid Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate of Competency issued by IDNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone.
While most of the traditional instructor-led safety courses administered by the IDNR have taken place this year, snowmobilers can also satisfy state safety requirements by taking one of two online courses to become familiar with safe sledding practices or to refresh themselves on staying safe. Individuals can earn legal safety certification through either http://www.snowmobilecourse.com or http://www.snowmobile-ed.com. Both courses are administered by private companies, and do charge a fee to take the course.
Basic safety tips for safe snowmobiling:
Never consume alcohol before or during a ride
Know your equipment, and make sure that equipment is in proper working order.
Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling, like a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, and flying debris.
Avoid wearing long scarves, which may get caught in moving parts of the snowmobile.
Know the terrain you are going to ride. If unfamiliar to you, ask someone who has traveled over it before. Be aware of trails or portions of trails that may be closed.
Drowning is one cause of snowmobile fatalities. When not familiar with the thickness of the ice or water currents, avoid these areas.
Know the weather forecast, and especially the ice and snow conditions in the area.
Always use the buddy system. Never ride alone or unaccompanied.
Travel at a reasonable rate of speed for your visibility and conditions. *Reminder to riders and hikers: A minimum of 4 inches of snow cover must be present for snowmobile use on state-managed property. Please call ahead to site offices to get the latest snow conditions and trail closures at individual sites. Ignoring these closures can result in a minimum $120 fine and possible arrest. For a list of site offices please visit the IDNR website at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/ Follow the IDNR on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Illinois-Department-of-Natural-Resources/101691346567146) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/IllinoisDNR)
Pension Reform Law: A Minute With U. Of I. Expert Jeffrey R. Brown
Editor’s note: In an interview with News Bureau business and law editor Phil Ciciora, finance professor Jeffrey R. Brown, who’s also the director of the Center for Business and Public Policy in the College of Business and was a senior economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001-2002, discusses Illinois’ pension reform law.
Does the new pension law eliminate the estimated $100 billion in unfunded pension liability within 30 years, or is it just delaying the day of fiscal reckoning?
To begin, let’s be clear what we mean by the unfunded liability. This is the actuarial value of benefits that have been promised in excess of the money we have put aside to pay for them. So it is completely unrealistic for any reform to eliminate this instantaneously. The only way to do so would be to immediately confiscate $100 billion of taxpayer wealth or to default on $100 billion of promised benefits, or some combination of the two. Obviously, neither of those is going to happen.
What this reform attempts to do is to address the problem in three ways. First, it reduces the value of already earned benefits by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and raising the retirement age. Of course, the fact that it does this may be unconstitutional – an issue that will be up to the courts to decide. Second, it reduces the benefits that will be promised in the future. One can view this as a form of, “If you are in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.” By reducing future benefit promises, this will free up future cash flows and thus reduce fiscal pressure on the state. Third, it includes provisions to force the state to more adequately fund the pensions in the future, including providing a new mechanism by which the retirement systems can try to force the state to make required contributions.
The problem, of course, is that it is never possible for a legislature to bind all future legislatures. So there is no guarantee that these funding commitments will be honored.
Who will be hurt the most by these changes?
In percentage terms, those hurt the most are employees in the defined benefit plan who have earnings over the new pensionable earnings cap and who still have another couple of decades of employment ahead of them. Absent other changes to offset some of the harm, some of these individuals just had their pension benefit cut not just in half, but by two-thirds or more. The danger to institutions such as the University of Illinois is that some of these individuals will simply choose to go elsewhere, taking their grant money, their labs and their intellectual capital with them.
The increase in the personal and corporate income tax rates will expire on Jan. 1, 2015. The revenue from those increases account for $7.5 billion a year. Can the Legislature let those tax increases expire?
As a legal matter, they certainly can. As an economic or fiscal matter, I have no idea how they could possibly allow it. Even with those “temporary” rates in effect, we have been unable to close the fiscal gap. It will only widen without those revenues. For perspective, the pension reform is expected to reduce spending by only about $1.5 billion per year in the short run, so it is only a small fraction of the additional revenue raised by the higher tax rates.
Does Illinois need a progressive income tax?
First, we should recognize that the system is already progressive according to the standard definition, which means that the average tax rate rises with income. Even though we have a flat marginal rate, there are deductions and exemptions, which mean that a higher fraction of income is exempt from taxation for lower-earning households. An easy way to make the system more progressive under the current flat marginal rate scheme is to raise the personal or household deduction. Of course, this reduces revenue.
But what most people have in mind is to add even more progressivity by having a multirate structure, with higher marginal rates on higher incomes. I am opposed to this on economic grounds. Although average tax rates matter for distributional purposes, it is marginal tax rates that are important for economic efficiency and productivity.
High marginal rates are a sure way to drive high-income workers, entrepreneurs and employers across state lines, which would further erode our tax base. Illinois is already pretty low on the list of attractive places to start a business or a career because of our dysfunctional political system and our high level of indebtedness. I don’t know why anyone would think it is a good idea to make this state even less attractive to the highest earners by levying even higher taxes on them. Let’s keep in mind that this is on top of a progressive income tax system at the national level. Plus, higher-income households tend to own more expensive homes, which means they are also paying substantially more in property taxes, which are quite high in Illinois.
Is there anything that the state of Illinois can learn from Detroit’s situation?
Yes, there are several lessons.
The first is that poor fiscal management over many decades can end very badly. We Americans are a pretty optimistic people, and so we often have a view that we can fix anything if we just set our mind to it. Most of the time, that serves us well. But Detroit shows us that you can sometimes dig a hole so deep that there really are no good solutions. Illinois has a stronger overall economic foundation than Detroit, but we have done an equally bad job of managing our finances. People should not assume that just because the Illinois General Assembly passed pension reform that we are out of the woods. The problems here are still quite large, and the solutions will be difficult and will require sustained focus over many years.
A second lesson is specific to pensions. Public sector unions in Illinois have long been advocates of defined benefit systems, and have been somewhat hostile to defined contribution systems. This is because it is generally thought that the employer (in this case, the state of Illinois) bears the risk in a defined benefit system, whereas that risk gets shifted to employees in a defined contribution system.
The recent ruling by a bankruptcy judge in Detroit shakes the very foundation of this belief. The court ruled that pension rights receive no special seniority in bankruptcy, and thus are treated like any other creditor. This dramatically increases the risk to participants in public defined benefit systems, at least at the local level where municipalities have a formal bankruptcy option.
Indeed, one could even argue that public defined benefit systems are now even more risky than corporate plans because the latter are insured by the federal government, whereas public plans are not.
Thus, in a state like Illinois that seems to have few effective mechanisms to force the state to fund the system, it is not at all clear that a defined-benefit system is safer. It may take a while, but I suspect more and more public employees will come to the conclusion that a well-designed and fully funded defined contribution system is more secure than an unfunded promise from the state’s politicians.
FAST Tools Workshop
This one-day hands-on computer based workshop will further participants’ understandings of Microsoft Excel applications and introduce FAST spreadsheets developed by agricultural economists at the University of Illinois. Farm Analysis Solution Tools are a series of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that assist users to make various farm business decisions. These tools offer guidance in the following areas: livestock management, financial analysis, investment analysis, loan analysis, farm management, grain marketing and management, and risk management.
The 2014 crop year is setting up to offer tighter margins than the past few years. It appears that base prices for crop insurance could be set at much lower levels. This training session is designed to get users to take a look at potential return scenarios for 2014 and perform financial analysis using FAST Tools. The morning session focuses on tools for assembling cash flow statements as well as crop insurance and risk management options. The afternoon session will demonstrate the features in our Balance Sheet Tool. This tool allows the user to assemble and database balance sheet information and perform ratio analysis over multiple years.
As part of the “hands-on” training, each participant will have access to a laptop computer that is provided in the registration cost. Also, participants may bring their own laptops equipped with a DVD-ROM drive and Microsoft Excel, version 2007 or higher. All participants will receive a copy of the FAST software, workshop notes, a one-year subscription to FAST updates, and a complementary lunch. The workshop will be led by Extension Educators Gary Schnitkey and Ryan Batts.
The FAST Workshop hosted by the U of I Extension will be held on Wednesday, February 26 at the Highland Community College Student Conference Center (Room 210), 2998 W. Pearl City Road, Freeport. The workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude by 3 p.m. Registration fee is $85. Registration is required one week before the program. Registration can be completed on-line at web.extension.illinois.edu/jsw or by calling the U of I Extension at (815) 235-4125.
2014 Tax Season to Open Jan. 31
The Internal Revenue Service today announced plans to open the 2014 filing season on Jan. 31 and encouraged taxpayers to use e-file or Free File as the fastest way to receive refunds.
The IRS noted that several options are available to help taxpayers prepare for the 2014 tax season and get their refunds as easily as possible. New year-end tax planning information has been added to IRS.gov.
In addition, many software companies are expected to begin accepting tax returns in January and hold those returns until the IRS systems open on Jan. 31. More details will be available in January.
The IRS cautioned that it will not process any tax returns before Jan. 31, so there is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date. Taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file or Free File with the direct deposit option.
The April 15 tax deadline is set by statute and will remain in place. However, the IRS reminds taxpayers that anyone can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return. The request is easily done with Form 4868, which can be filed electronically or on paper.
2014 Notice Of Election Of Directors
To All Owners And Occupiers Of Lands Lying Within The Boundaries Of The Whiteside County Soil And Water Conservation District:
Notice is hereby given that an Annual Meeting and Election will be held on the 25th day of January, 2014 at 6:00PM at Super Wash Training Facility, Morrison IL 61270. Three Directors will be elected to serve the Whiteside County Soil and Water Conservation District of the State of Illinois.
All persons, firms or corporations who hold legal title or are in legal possession of any land lying within the boundaries of the said district are eligible to vote at said election, whether as lessee, renter, tenant or otherwise.
Only such persons, firms or corporations are eligible to vote.
Dave Cook, Chairman
Whiteside County Soil and Water Conservation District
Dated: 25th day of January, 2014.
HCC Adult Education Classes Begin in January
The Highland Community College Adult Education Program will resume morning, afternoon and evening GED® preparation courses the week of January 13, 2014. English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes will begin the same week.
Prospective and returning students are encouraged to register as soon as possible.
In addition to classes on the main Freeport campus in the Community Services Center (building-R), the following locations will be offering classes:
Northwest Illinois Community Action Agency, 27 South State Street, Freeport
Mount Morris Senior Citizens Center, 9 E. Front St., Mount Morris
Tutoring is also available in Jo Daviess County through the HCC Adult Education Volunteer Literacy Program. No Orientation needed. Students will start classes on their first scheduled day.
Please call 815-599-3460 starting on January 2, 2014, for more information on class times and availability, or to enroll in courses.
There is a Santa Claus
Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
Dear Editor: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VirginiaS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.