McHenry County College wants to spend $278 million on an expansion it doesn’t have the revenue to support.
Part of that expansion is a facility that could house health science classrooms, laboratory space, a health care clinic and a fitness center.
The good news is that MCC trustees appear to be slowing down about moving forward with such a facility.
Board of Trustees Chairman Ron Parrish said he no longer is sure a new facility is the best option.
“I’m way far away from being convinced that we need to be doing brick and mortar [expansion] before we’ve actually vetted these other ideas,” Parrish said.
It would seem obvious that other alternatives should be more closely examined before MCC spends money it doesn’t have, especially if those alternatives are less costly and more beneficial for taxpayers.
The alternatives to building an expensive new facility include moving courses off campus, exploring more cooperative efforts with area health-care providers and other community colleges, and bolstering online instruction.
Should MCC decide to move forward with building a new facility, there still is the issue of paying for it. No revenue stream has been identified to fund the project. Under consideration is, of course, issuing alternative revenue bonds, which then put taxpayers at risk.
Alternative revenue bonds rely on an identified revenue stream to pay them off. But if revenue falls short of projections, taxpayers are left to make up the difference through property taxes.
MCC Trustee Chris Jenner recently proposed a policy change that would require voter approval before issuing alternative revenue bonds. Such a measure would allow taxpayers to decide whether they want to be on the hook to pay off bonds if revenue falls short.
No action has been taken on Jenner’s proposal. Adopting it, however, would go a long way in letting the community decide whether it wants MCC to invest in new buildings.
Until all options are examined, however, the expansion should be a moot point.