Dogged Fiscal Showdown in Illinois Gives Local School Leaders Major Heartburn



Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Weekend News Digest: Latino homelessness surges in L.A. County; clogged drain pipes flood N.C. town for 2nd time in 3 weeks; and Alaska’s struggle to fund homes for senior citizens.

STATE BUDGETS | In Illinois, which is a few weeks away from entering its third fiscal year without an agreed-upon state budget, school districts are watching and waiting to see what happens next in Springfield. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, locked into a stubborn struggle with Democratic leaders, has called the legislature back for a special session to see if some sort of deal can be brokered. With the impasse for the current fiscal year, Illinois leaders have approved measures to keep K-12 education funded, but there’s no guarantee that would happen should the budgetary discord drags on into the summer. While some cash-strapped school districts, especially downstate, would be hit hard if state aid and reimbursements stopped, others would have to dip into their budget reserves. That isn’t ideal, even for those with generous fiscal cushions. “The reserves are there for when we have problems we have to deal with,” said a schools superintendent in McHenry County, located northwest of Chicago. “I would be very concerned about draining our reserves just to operate without a state budget.” [Northwest Herald]

HOMELESSNESS | Recent figures released by Los Angeles County show that the number of Latinos who are now homeless in the nation’s most populous county jurisdiction jumped by 63 percent in the past year. That’s an additional 7,000 people. [Los Angeles Times]

In Pinellas County, Florida, a crisis for finding shelter for homeless families has caught local officials off-guard. The problem: Most of the efforts to ease homelessness in the county, which includes the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, have focused on individuals sleeping on the street or are panhandling. “The crisis with families is new and the crisis came to be so fast that the system didn't have the time to adjust and to restructure itself," said the CEO of a local Catholic charity that works to help the homeless. [Tampa Bay Times]

In Yakima, Washington, a competitive-bidding process has seen homelessness funding shift from two longtime providers to “an untested newcomer” that’s part of a collaborative effort among faith organizations to build 24 tiny houses on church parking lots. The plan is raising big question: “In terms of long-term solutions, it doesn’t seem to make sense to move people out of supportive housing and into an encampment,” Rhonda Hauff, Neighborhood Health chief operations officer.  [Yakima Herald]

CRIMINAL JUSTICE | Efforts by the Democratic-led Nevada Legislature to pass a package of criminal justice reforms saw mixed results. Some measures pushed by leaders didn’t make it out of the legislature, including abolishing the death penalty, while others including vacating marijuana convictions, “hit a wall at Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk.” There was some common ground found between the governor and the legislature on criminal justice, including a bill to restore voting rights to ex-felons in the state. [The Nevada Independent]

ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION | Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has affirmed that the Beaver State was not one of 39 states that saw Russian cyberattacks on its voter databases and other systems. "While attempts to hack into Secretary of State computers are a frequent occurrence and a constant threat, our I.T. security team is well-qualified and thoroughly determined to prevent hackers from breaking into our systems," Richardson said. [Willamette Week]

SENIOR SERVICES | Alaska’s Pioneer Homes, five state-run senior-living facilities, have seen flat funding due to the Last Frontier’s ongoing and unresolved budget crisis. But the flat funding for the Pioneer Homes is essentially a funding cut since it doesn’t keep pace with mandated wage and cost-of-living increases, so the homes actually face a $1.3 million shortfall, which has led to layoffs and empty beds. [Alaska Dispatch News]

QUALITY OF LIFE | A proposal in Madison, Wisconsin, seeks to lower the volume of noise coming from pedal cabs, quadacycles and low-speed vehicles that operate on downtown streets. The founder of Hopper Rides, a service that would be impacted by the proposal, said music from his vehicles is necessary because the electric motor is silent and some noise is necessary to keep inattentive and intoxicated individuals crossing the street aware that the vehicles are coming. [Wisconsin State Journal]

PUBLIC TRANSIT | The Maryland Transit Administration, which operates buses in and around Baltimore, launched a revamped service structure on Sunday, realigning and boosting service on key routes to create a system now known as the BaltimoreLink. “I know it’s not perfect, but we’re working to address all the issues and concerns that citizens have been calling about,” the Baltimore City Council president, Bernard “Jack” C. Young said. [Baltimore Brew]

INFRASTRUCTURE | Madison, North Carolina, a small town located north of Greensboro near the Virginia border, has been dealing with its second downtown flood in less than three weeks, prompting the mayor to announce his intention to declare a state of emergency. The problem, in part, has been blamed on drainage pipes clogged with debris, but the mayor says his small town has few resources to upgrade its infrastructure. “With 1,100 actual taxpayers, you can't do long term repairs.” [WGHP-TV]

URBAN DESIGN | A plan to build a 20-story apartment building on top of a parking structure in downtown Columbia, South Carolina isn’t quite dead, but isn’t moving forward at this time due to the high cost of construction. Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry says the city is still interested in figuring out ways to generate more revenue from its parking structures. [The State]