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Maintenance costs burden MCC budget

CRYSTAL LAKE – With the preliminary budget of the 2014-15 school year for McHenry County College set to be presented next month, trustees are at odds about how much money should be saved for potential maintenance needs.

A board policy from years ago states the college should transfer $5 million out of its educational operations fund with half going to immediate maintenance projects and the other half going to a fund to save for larger projects.

But trustee Molly Walsh, who was not on the board when the policy was created, said it could make more sense to use all $5 million for immediate maintenance projects to more aggressively attack the roughly $40 million in repairs buildings need.

She said she is concerned saving $2.5 million in a fund for maintenance costs and building needs each year could lead to that money going toward the much talked about expansion instead of repairing and improving what the college has now.

"If we have this great maintenance problem ... it seems to me we should do the whole $5 million for [those] projects," Walsh said. "Why set it aside when you don't even know where you are going to use it."

Supporters of the policy, including trustees Cynthia Kisser and Mary Miller, said the budgeted transfer did not mean it would take place but would allow trustees to authorize it later if they needed to. Not approving it now would leave the reserve fund at its current level for the whole year without the ability to add to it if needed.

Miller also said it is important to plan for unexpected events to avoid the same situation former boards found themselves in after downplaying the importance of maintenance.

"We were very concerned about the aging of the building," Miller said of the previous board. "That's why we created the policy."

The full preliminary budget is expected to be presented to the board at its July meeting.

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