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MCC approves preliminary budget with frozen tax levy

Published: Monday, July 28, 2014 11:47 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:10 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – The McHenry County College Board of Trustees has approved a preliminary budget that assumes a freeze in the property tax levy for a second consecutive year.

The $66.4 million operating and education budget will cost the college slightly less in salaries and benefits for instructors, dropping the total from $42.3 million to $42 million. Local tax revenues are expected to come in at about $27 million again.

One reason for the slight drop in salaries and benefits could be the current number of vacancies, which chairman Ron Parrish expressed some concern about, and the amount of temporary workers. Trustee Tom Wilbeck said paying more than $400,000 for temporary positions seems like a lot, but MCC chief financial officer Robert Tenuta said it can be a cost savings.

"It's basically cost avoidance in some positions," Tenuta said. "Others, it's just that you can't fill a position that is critical to operations and needs to have someone in place."

After implementing increases, revenue from tuition and fees is expected to come in at $16 million this year, although Tenuta said enrollment projections may be slightly high and the number could come under the mark.

State revenue is more than expected after it was announced that 19 colleges would lose some funding while 20 would receive a boost. Tenuta said the state added roughly $500,000 to the base grant, reversing the cut the college expected.

The potential property tax levy freeze would be the second in a row after the college approved a 9.9 percent levy increase in 2012. The change in philosophy came with new board members Chris Jenner, Molly Walsh and Wilbeck, who went against a suggested 2.8 percent levy increase along with Parrish.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Aug. 28.

One added cost to this year's budget will be for the start of a road widening project on Route 14 that will result in improved entrances for the college.

The long-discussed project will eliminate Entrance 2 and make Entrance 3 near Lucas Road and Route 14 – where a new traffic signal will be installed – the primary access point.

The college's first $234,000 installment will be paid this year with two more in fiscal 2016 and 2017. The Illinois Department of Transportation is paying $23 million for the $24.9 million project while the McHenry County Conservation District and Crystal Lake also will pay portions for the expansive work down Route 14.

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