McHenry County College board approves levy, eyes tuition increases

CRYSTAL LAKE – The McHenry County College Board of Trustees finalized a property tax levy freeze Thursday, but residents could still see a slight increase in bills because of declining property values.

Trustees approved a levy freeze that will result in the college collecting the same amount of property tax revenue it did the previous fiscal year – $27.9 million. But because assessed property values are expected to decrease by 3 percent, the rate will still need to increase to make up the difference.

College estimates show the owner of a $250,000 home would have to pay roughly $6.50 more a year to the institution.

The decision to hold the levy flat could cost the college roughly $545,000 depending on new growth. Money from reserves would be needed to make up the deficit.

Passing on the potential $545,000 this year would cause the revenue to be lost forever as any future levy increase would be building off a base that never captured that new growth and inflation adjustment.

Some trustees had pushed for increasing the levy to try and capture new growth, but were outnumbered 4-3 in previous meetings. The levy was unanimously approved on a consent agenda Thursday.

With a levy freeze, administrators are looking to tuition increases and additional fees as a potential source to make up for lost tax dollars.

Robert Tenuta, chief financial officer for the college, said McHenry County College ranks as the 24th lowest in the state with tuition prices at $102 per credit hour compared to the $112.75 per credit hour state average.

The maximum the college could charge is $131.15, but Tenuta proposed a 5 percent increase and a infrastructure fee to help cover the $41 million in deferred maintenance the college carries.

“It really forces the college to cover its operating expenses through tuition increases,” Tenuta said of freezing the levy, noting tuition is the second largest revenue stream.

MCC President Vicky Smith said while cuts are always possible, any budget slashes would start to directly hit departments and programs.

“We have cut any fat that there was in our budgets,” Smith said. “Now all that’s left ... is to cut departments and cut programs.”

The board is expected to discuss tuition rates in future meetings.

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