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McHenry County College considers holding taxes, limiting raises

Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 4:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:05 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The McHenry County College Board could keep more money in taxpayers' pockets and put less in administrators' under a pair of new proposals.

After the board failed to reach an agreement on administrative raises at the last meeting, Chairman Ron Parrish has proposed a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase for administrators, with any additional compensation to be considered on a merit system.

That proposal comes with some trustees' requests to see two budgets – one showing the revenue generated by a 4.9 percent increase to the tax levy and another showing revenue with no increase.

Parrish said both suggestions show that the board is serious about controlling costs, especially with levy requests that generally are much higher than what the college receives.

"We never get what we levy for, but the fact is perception is reality, so when people see a 9 percent increase in the levy, they're not happy," Parrish said. "Whether it turns out to be 2 percent or something else is not the point. We have not been as sensitive to that as we need to be."

Parrish voted against a 9.9 percent increase in the levy last year. The college collected only about 3 percent more in tax revenue but asked for more to assure it benefited from new construction.

The board also could break through a stalemate over administrative raises after agreeing on a process to approve a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment with any other increase based on merit.

Trustees could not come to an agreement on across-the-board raises at their last board meeting, as suggestions ranged between 2 percent and 3.7 percent. College President Vicky Smith, who is not included in the group of administrators to receive annual raises, has pushed for higher compensation, as administrators make an average of $19,000 less than their counterparts at other area community colleges.

Trustee Molly Walsh said details still need to be worked out for a merit-based system. She said trustees must decide whether merit-based raises will be distributed as a one-time bonus payment or added to the base salary.

Parrish also said a maximum percentage would need to be set so the best performing administrators are compensated fairly.

"We anticipate by August or September we may have a merit plan ready to go," Trustee Linda Liddell said. "We have a couple months to fine-tune it."

Parrish said the plan must be in place by December to give administrators either the retroactive raise or bonus payment for this year. The board will discuss both proposals at the next board meeting on July 25.

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