Tuesday night the McHenry County College Board talked about a consultant-proposed $62-$78 million recommended renovation and expansion of the college campus.
With Full Time Equivalent enrollment down 7.6% since 2011, but a need to update science laboratories which one Trustee said were worse than some high school labs, the members discussed the options, settling on something over $36 million with a significant “but.”
As former Board President Ron Parrish put it, “$30 million. No referendum.”
Chief Financial Officer Bob Tenuta presented various options to pay for proposals.
His first presentation included the following breakdown of where the money would come from:
- 1/4 from the students
- 1/4 from a capital campaign
- 1/4 from the taxpayers
- 1/4 from current MCC fund balances and debt certificates [of course, most of this started in taxpayers’ pockets]
Here are more specific details:
- an increase in student fees to pay for the student center
- McHenry County College Foundation fund raising
- a 20-year bond issue approved by the voters
- debt certificates, which are repaid from college funds
After Parrish pointed out that McHenry County is not “in a growth mode,” Molly Walsh agreed: “I’m just brokenhearted. Ron is right.
“We’ve got a mass exodus from this county.”
She argued against going to property owners for more money.
“Take off the referendum,” she said.
“[It] is never going to pass,” Karen Tirio immediately added.
Student Trustee Jason Memmen disagreed, pointing to the $115 million bond issue passed by Elgin Community College nine years ago.
“I do think something like this can pass.”
Cynthia Kisser argued that the Board should move forward as soon as possible.
“I don’t see how we can’t move forward with this.
“Interest rates are never going to be this low again. (Tenuta estimated the rate to be 3.84%.)
“Do it now or forget about it.”
Chairing the Committee of the Whole meeting was Linda Liddell.
“Do it now, leaving the referendum out,” she said, summarizing the consensus.
Liddell focused on the number $36.3 million.
Tenuta modified his spreadsheet to eliminate money from a referendum bond issue and ended up with the issuance of $12 million in debt certificates.
“That money will have to come from somewhere,” he said.
“We’ve cut and cut and cut,” college President Vicky Smith observed.
“We have to cut programs.”
Without a referendum, Tenuta estimated that an additional $87,000 would have to be found each year to pay off the debt certificates.
Top on the list seems to be the athletic teams, which did not sit well with Memmen.
“Are athletics on the chopping block?” he asked.
“Yes,” Tenuta replied.
“Then, I’m not on board with this,”Memmen said.
Other community colleges are moving in the same direction. Harper, Heartland and Spoon Valley College were cited.
More details were requested by Walsh, Tirio and Parrish.
Jenner went along, but asked that the Board be told “what sacrifices” had to be made.
Board President Mike Smith was absent.