Carle CEO, Urbana Schools, Weigh In On Settlement
By Jeff Bossert and Sean Powers
The Carle Foundation's president and C-E-O said he’s glad a settlement has been reached with Urbana’s school and park districts, saying it would have difficult for all parties to extend a 2007 lawsuit any further.
The litigation was filed after property tax exemptions on Carle Hospital’s main campus were terminated.
Dr. James Leonard said under the agreement, Urbana District 116 will retain about $5 million in tax revenue from Carle, and return about $5.7 million to Carle. Meanwhile, the Urbana Park District has agreed to pay more than $1 million over the next 5 years, and keep more than $930,000.
Leonard said if the hospital wanted to come to a resolution, it didn’t make sense for it to try to get all of the tax dollars back.
“We decided to really enter into a negotiation with those two groups saying, ‘Look, we know if we go for a 100 percent, we’re going to follow this all the way through the court system and spend a lot of money," he said. "And backed into a percentage range that's what we wanted to be in and that’s what we’re in.”
Because Champaign County Circuit Judge Chase Leonard still has to sign off on the settlement with both taxing bodies, District 116 school superintendent Don Owen said he can’t yet say what its $5.1 million dollars would be used for.
Owen said district administrators and the school board also need to have lengthy discussions on budgetary needs, citing a budget that includes a $6-million deficit.
He hopes to have some clarity on that issue by December, when the school board also has to approve its tax levy for 2014.
"In some ways, it dovetails nicely because it's really a discussion about budgetary issues," Owen said. "And so as we move forward, and we're looking at what the implications are for Carle coming off the tax rolls and the implications of the settlement, those will all come into play with our budgetary discussions and planning, and those discussions take place in December."
Urbana Park District Executive Director Vicki Mayes said the certainty of reaching a settlement was important, and gets the UPD back to providing parks and recreation services.
"With any mediation or settlement, each party that participates in it chooses the course that's best for them," she said. "And this course is the one that was best for us."
The park district is considering a 2014 tax levy of 11.55 percent, to be voted on at the board's next meeting on November 12. But Mayes says the $933,500 settlement will not have an impact on that levy request.
The lawsuit continues with other parties, including the city of Urbana, Champaign County Board of Review, and Cunningham Township.