Name: David Schenk
Town: Marengo Township
Office sought: Board of Trustees McHenry County College
1) What skills, qualities or experience do you possess that separate you from your opponents?
I’ve taught at all levels of higher education (first year coursework through doctoral seminar,) earned advanced college degrees, and have a career in the private sector (international logistics) since 1996. While placement on the MCC Board of Trustees would be my first public position, my breadth of experience can be unique addition.
A crucial difference between me and Diane, and the other three candidates, is they see themselves as representing the college. We see ourselves as representing the taxpayers. We are skeptics who want to make sure that MCC creates value for the students and the community. The incumbent and former incumbent have a record of doing everything the administration asks without question -- from the ball field to the health club plan. Diane and I have no conflicts of interest and no long record of supporting higher taxes and big projects. Candidates’ records of such support must be considered both by the paper and by the voters.
2) What can McHenry County College do and what should it do to ease the property tax burden on homeowners?
To achieve a lighter burden, MCC will need to lower its levy increase such that its percentage change is less than corresponding percentage change in properties values within its taxing district. While facing stagnant assessed property values and reduced state funding, clearly it will need to reduce its costs or enhance other sources of funding. Cost reductions may be achieved with further innovation in the delivery and completion of coursework – possible infrastructure cost reductions through increased scope of on-line learning that can also have a correlated reduction in expense for students to “attend” through offsets in direct and indirect costs in commuting.
3) What's your position on space needs at the college? Do you agree with the $16.8 million science building plan?
The approved plan, which is substantially scaled back from initial proposals in the $45 million range, still adds tens of thousands of square feet to the campus during a time of declining enrollment. As I understand it, the “science building project“ was driven by a need to update facility and equipment that dates back approximately 50 years. Yes, the project was re-scaled and its construction is funded by private donors and through student fee collateralized debt… a fee that is paid by all students, not just those taking science classes. Of course, one can expect that some non-science classes can be held in the building.
Whether this was the most cost effective option is not apparent. While the lowest cost option does not necessarily mean it’s the most efficient, I’d need further information about the options considered along with the corresponding assumptions and forecasts to determine if I agree.
Given recent reductions in MCC’s labor force are in part tied to declining enrollments, need for even more space at the main campus does not appear warranted at this time.
4) What will be the biggest challenge that McHenry County College will face over the next four years and how will you meet it?
The continuing fiscal crisis in Illinois is among the largest challenges. The likelihood of higher taxes and declining State contributions can mean further decline in the district’s population (households leaving Illinois,) property values not keeping pace with overall market and less discretionary income for those looking to attend. Concurrently, certain obligations for MCC remain fixed or will grow such as pension obligations.
While much of this is outside the direct purview of MCC Board and Administration, what it can do is continue to work on developing its fundraising capability with the private sector, recruitment of students, and cost efficient provision of engaging and accredited coursework.
5) Do you agree with the board's recent decisions on layoffs? Why or why not?
The administration selected and approached the board for approval of identified faculty, administration and staff reductions as part of aligning a budget under the context of declining enrollment and lowered State funding. The board and administration will likely continue to face consequences of Illinois’ fiscal crisis for the foreseeable future. From this aspect I can agree with the action.
No teaching faculty is relieved of their position. Under the category of faculty this move affected only counselors. These positons do not appear to be aligned with any one department. Yet, one of the stipulations is the move was needed due to “declining departmental enrollment trends.” One is left to infer that maybe all departments are experiencing similar declines. It could be more that these positions are non-tenured. Whatever the case, why this only impacted counselors is not transparent. Why this is of possible concern is counselors, particularly in the community college environment, can have a prominent role in a student’s success in not only one or two classes but across a student’s entire curriculum. At this time I do not have sufficient information to determine whether I agree on the composition of the reduction.
6) What do you consider to be McHenry County College's primary role in the community?
The attainment of skills and enhanced education of residents is among key elements to growth, attracting new businesses, raising incomes, and enhancing quality of life for the community of McHenry County. Doing so efficiently and effectively as possible with the resources residents and students can afford is critical.