Municipal bond analyst Stephen Willson, who has been critical of both the proposal to expand the Crystal Lake Library and the massive expansion of McHenry County College, has written a critique of the College Board’s plan to build a $42 million health club and classroom expansion. That will start today and continue until the 1,500 word document is completely posted and accessible by internet search engines.
An Open Letter to the Public Concerning McHenry County College
MCC plans to spend $42 million on a new 30,000+ square foot health club, similar to Health Bridge, and to add 90,000 square feet of classroom space for an expanded health and wellness program. According to MCC, they will attract 1,400 new students and accomplish all this without a tuition increase or a property tax increase.
MCC plans to use “alternate revenue bonds”, which are payable from property taxes, in order to avoid a referendum.
On October 25, MCC agreed to pay Power Wellness $50,000 to perform a “phase 2” feasibility study. Power Wellness has an obvious conflict of interest and should never have been hired.
Is there a documented demand for this huge new project, and is it likely to be self-supporting? Let’s examine the facts.
Proposition 1: MCC should offer degree programs in health services.
Response: MCC already offers health programs that have flat enrollment.
MCC already has programs for occupational therapy, emergency medical technician, health and fitness education, nursing assistants, and nursing, with about 780 students in total.
Enrollment in existing programs has been essentially flat for the last few years.
Yet MCC projects that the new project will nearly TRIPLE enrollment in health programs with zero evidence.
Has MCC been turning students away from their existing programs? No.
So why should we believe demand will increase by 1,400 additional students?
MCC’s own flat enrollment history and Census data contradict such a conclusion.
Proposition 2: Health care employment is growing rapidly.
Response: Not in McHenry County.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9,815 health care jobs in McHenry County in 2011.
The number of health care jobs increased by just 35 in 2009, and decreased by 34 in 2010 and by 50 in 2011.
The federal government is placing extreme pressure on health care providers to curb expenses.
Projections assuming zero growth (faster than the last few years) and 3% annual growth (the long run average) indicate there will likely be only 350 to 400 job openings each year in health services in McHenry County in future years.
Only half of these jobs will require a junior college degree; the rest require either no degree or a more advanced degree.
So there will likely be around 175 to 200 job openings each year for the 2,100 students that MCC projects.
The “phase one” marketing presentation does not address the availability of health care jobs for junior college graduates at all.
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The following are running for the three open spots on the McHenry County College Board:
- William Scott Alford, Wonder Lake, received December 19
- Chris Jenner, Cary, received December 26, 2012
- Carol Larson, Harvard, received December 17
- Erik Sivertsen, McHenry, received December 26, 2012
- Mike Smith, Village of Lakewood, received December 17
- Molly Walsh, Crystal Lake, received December 21
- Barbara Walters, McHenry, received December 26, 2012
- Arne Waltmire, McHenry, received December 17
- Thomas Wilbeck, Lakewood, received December 26, 2012
Incumbents are Carol Larson and Barbara Walters.
Rest assured I shall ask each whether they will vote to sell bonds without asking voters for permission first.
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See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.