State Briefs 7/31/09

Businesses told they were charging wrong sales tax rate

PEORIA — At least six Peoria retailers were incorrectly charging customers a 9 percent sales tax earlier this month and were instructed by City Hall to lower it to 8 percent.

According to the city's finance department, the six businesses are Best Buy; Bed, Bath and Beyond; Journey's at Northwoods Mall; Walgreen's; Circle K; and one of the MacDonald Shell gas stations.

Finance Director James Scroggins described the problem as confusion among mostly large corporate retailers whose operations are sometimes handled outside the Peoria area. He said he doesn't believe any of the instances were deliberate.

He said the confusion stems from an informational bulletin issued by the Illinois Department of Revenue in May to all retailers informing them that on July 1, the sales tax would increase from 8 to 9 percent. A chart is attached to the letter showing that the increase was designated for a "business district."

Scroggins said the state sent the letter to "every" taxpaying commercial business in Peoria. The tax applied only to businesses in the city's Hospitality Improvement Zone.

The 9 percent sales tax applies to 46 downtown businesses, including the city's hotels, which are a part of the zone's boundaries. The tax was approved last year to help generate revenue to support improvements to downtown's hotels.

Peoria Journal Star

Angel-wielding suspect smites pedestrian

PEORIA —  Maybe the devil made him do it.

Someone used a stone angel statue as a weapon while trying to rob a man in South Peoria early Thursday morning, the victim told police.

A Peoria police officer went to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, where a 51-year-old man was being treated for a large laceration on top of his head. The man said he was walking in the area of Griswold and Wiswall streets sometime after midnight when a male approached him and asked to borrow some money, according to a police report.

The victim said he didn't have any money, at which time he was struck with the statue. He said he fought off the attacker without losing any money. He declined to tell police the identity of his attacker, saying he planned to talk to him about it himself.

Because the victim was not cooperative, police closed the case, according to a police report. He was treated at and released from St. Francis.

Peoria Journal Star

Horace Mann profits jump

SPRINGFIELD – There is still room for improvement, but the credit-market panic of last fall has faded, a top executive at Horace Mann Educators Corp. said Thursday.

The Springfield insurance and financial services company reported its profits increased more than 70 percent to $32 million for the first six months of this year compared to 2008, primarily as a result of improvement in financial markets.

There also is cautious optimism in the industry that credit markets will continue to improve, said Dwayne Hallman, senior vice president of finance.

The dramatic shift was shown in “unrealized losses,” which are the potential losses in the company investment portfolio that have not yet been put on the books. At the end of June, the figure stood at $171.3 million. That compares to $359.6 million at the end of March and $327.2 million on Dec. 31, 2008.

Horace Mann’s stock, which fell as low as $4 a share in the weeks following last fall’s national financial meltdown, was back above $11 a share on Thursday. President and CEO Louis Lower said the improvement in the past six months also reflects the fact that Horace Mann had minimal exposure to subprime loans and other high-risk investments blamed for the meltdown.

State Journal-Register

Man attempts to rob credit union

ROCKFORD — Police are looking for a light-skinned, 5-foot-8 male, who pulled a gun on a security guard at a credit union just before 1 p.m. Friday.

Police said the man entered Credit Union 1 alone and pointed a long-barreled handgun at a female security officer. Police say the man told the guard to freeze.

The guard pulled her weapon and fired at the man, missing him but striking the front window of the business, police said. The man then exited the business and fled on foot, heading west. No one was injured.

The attempted robbery might be connected to other recent credit-union robberies in the city.

On July 24, a man with a similar physical description robbed the Generations Credit Union, 5618 Harrison Ave.

Rockford Register Star