By a unanimous vote, including Student Trustee Jeremy Sacrament, McHenry County College Trustees voted to impose a $10 per credit hour infrastructure fee starting this summer.
One Trustee called it a “user fee.”
Including the extra $10, the cost per credit hour will be $132, bringing MCC’s up from 33rd least expensive to 31st (subject to what three other community colleges decide).
The fee will be charged for at least one year.
Then, if the $15 million counted on to be raised from donors does not materialize for the renovation and expansion project, the fee will disappear.
Depending on the success, it could also be lowered.
New President Clinton Gabbard emphasized that his success in fundraising would be helped if he could tell donors the College was funding a significant portion.
Debt certificates would be utilized to borrow funds needed, rather than going to the voters for referendum approval for bonds. The interest rate in a recent re-financing was between 2 and three percent.
The project is driven by the need to renovate two decrepit science labs and provide adequate space for nursing and physical therapy training programs.
The project is designed to product 66,400 square feet of new space and remodel 41,300 square feet in the current building.
Testifying against the fee in the Public Comment period was student Erick Marclessault.
“Kids aren’t able to pay for college as it is,” he said.
He criticized Governor Bruce Rauner for not having a budget that would supply MAP grants and was unhappy that the Board had not asked the voters for more money over the last three years.
I followed him, pointing out that one of the goals of the Governor was to give local governments the ability to waive the Prevailing Wage law, which might save 20% on the $34.4 million construction project.
I also criticized the 10% contingency fee built into the project costs, telling the Board that a Jefferson Wells forensic auditor said he’d look at such fee over 5%.
While no one voted against charging the students more, the vote on proceeding with the construction project was only approved 4-3.
Voting in favor were Cynthia Kisser, Linda Liddell, Mike Smith and Molly Walsh.
Opposed were Chris Jenner, Ron Parrish and Karen Tirio.
The three seemed to think that all the fat had not been squeezed out of the project yet.