CHAMPAIGN — More than 460 acres of land in southwest Champaign officially will become part of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, perhaps as soon as today, the transit district's board decided Wednesday.
The land includes the new Carle at the Fields development, now under construction at Interstate 57 and Curtis Road, and all or parts of the Trails at Chestnut Grove, Abbey Fields, Jacob's Landing, Will's Trace, Ironwood West and Trails Edge subdivisions.
MTD Managing Director Karl Gnadt said he'll file paperwork with the county clerk's office today, meaning that all of the taxable properties would be subject to MTD property taxes (currently at a rate of 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation) beginning with next spring's tax bills.
Carle requested that its 325-acre development be brought into the transit district. The subdivision residents did not, but Gnadt said earlier this year that it made sense to annex all of the properties together in order to plan expanded service.
The MTD also operates under an annexation agreement with the city of Champaign that requires it to annex properties once they are in the city limits.
Wednesday's unanimous board vote came despite protests from two property owners whose homes would be annexed into the transit district.
"I'm very concerned that my taxes are going to go up $600 a year ... for service that I will not use once in my entire life. This is just more government run amok, in my opinion," said Mike Hetherington, who lives in Chestnut Grove. "I've got kids in braces. I have tuition to pay for school. I'm never going to use this and a lot of people in my community who I talk to are never going to use this service. And I'm not sure how it's our responsibility to provide taxes for transportation that we're never going to use, ever."
Spencer Anderson, also of Chestnut Grove, asked why the areas were being annexed and what kind of service would be provided.
Told that there are no service plans yet — Gnadt said service would begin in January or February, once Carle moves into its development — Anderson said it's not appropriate "to request additional funding before you acknowledge a need for that funding or an idea of where that funding would end up going."
There was no board debate on the Carle annexation.
And only board member Jim Faron spoke about the subdivision annexation.
"It's important to emphasize that there is an arrangement and people who live in the city should be aware of that, and they might chat with their representatives for the city council because the areas are within the city and there is a very defined agreement with the city to incorporate these areas," Faron said. "The difficulty is on various issues we can't pick and choose, whether it's the library, Unit 4 (school district) or whatever. You're part of a community and as a result often you will be asked to contribute to things you may not use."
Although no MTD buses will run into the subdivisions for several months, residents of the area will be eligible for Americans with Disabilities Act services and half-fare cab service immediately upon annexation, according to a memo to board members.
Budget OK'd by board is smaller than last year's
CHAMPAIGN — Members of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board on Wednesday approved a budget for the fiscal year beginning Saturday that the transit district director said is about 3 percent less than this year's spending plan.
"There were some expenses in the current year's budget that we didn't program for this year, in an effort to cost contain," said Karl Gnadt, the district's managing director.
He said no service or employees would be cut under the budget plan.
Gnadt also said that work on the MCORE project in the University of Illinois campus area could shut down after Friday if there is no state budget agreement.
"If there is no stopgap budget solution by the 30th, then on the 1st (of July) everything stops," he said. "I think it's very real."
Any delay will push back further the planned completion of the infrastructure project, he said.
And it's possible the project could lose its federal funding, he said.
"It's a very real possibility that if it is delayed for some time, we could lose the federal funding in the middle of the project with the streets torn up," Gnadt said. "And we'd lose millions of federal dollars, and how would we come up with that money?"
He said he planned to go to Springfield today to ask legislators to approve a budget so MCORE could continue.
"Give us some kind of a bridge to keep these projects going because this is just a mess for every community that is dealing with this stuff," he said.
He said he also was worried about a Republican proposal that would cut state mass transit funding by 10 percent, which would translate into a 35 percent funding loss for the MTD because it is so heavily dependent on state aid.
"Now you're talking about layoffs and major service reductions," Gnadt said. "We could manage a 10 percent cut. We can figure that out. We can make moderate cuts here and there and not lay off anybody.
"Thirty-five percent? We can't do that without laying people off and doing significant, long-term damage to our service levels."
In other news
— Gnadt said that the MTD received notice that it would get its approximately $10 million third quarter (January-March) state payment later this week. That's later than normal, he said.
"We used to get them before the quarter even started," Gnadt said.
— A property at 64 E. Chester St. in Champaign that the MTD purchased last year as part of a group of acquisitions is being sold on contract to local developer Scott Cochrane. He purchased it last week with a bid that will yield the MTD $450,000. Gnadt said the MTD had hoped for at least $425,000.
— May ridership on MTD buses was 742,352, down 3.7 percent from last year. Year-to-date ridership is down 5.2 percent.