Name: Diane Evertsen
Office Sought: McHenry County Trustee
1. What skills, qualities or experience do you possess that separate you from your opponents?
Prior to retirement, I worked in the private sector where businesses make a product or service and must pay their employees with the proceeds/profits from those products or services. As a Realtor (an independent contractor), I recognized the level of service directly influenced the level of income and profit. Having spent 11 years on the Harvard District 50 School Board, I was able to observe both the administrative positions and the teachers’ perspectives in a scholastic setting. After two terms on the McHenry County Board, I certainly understand the need to listen to taxpayers relative to what they want and what they can afford and are willing to pay for. The office of Trustee means you owe a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers; a responsibility to hold their tax dollars in the highest regard. It does not mean I hold myself up as a cheerleader working on behalf of the college but, rather, a watchdog for the taxpayers’ purse.
2. What can McHenry County College do and what should it do to ease the property tax burden on homeowners?
At this point in Illinois, McHenry County College has limited prospects. Number 1 would be, of course, to reduce spending; Number 2 - to increase income through increased tuition, which I would absolutely oppose. Number 3 - to reach out for private donations. Number 4 - to partner with area businesses and junior colleges like Rock Valley, ECC and Lake County in collaborative efforts to share expenses as well as assets for the benefit of the students and taxpayers. Number 5 - to increase the number of students without increasing faculty or workforce. This would include a serious examination of classes which have very low student/teacher ratio and making a determination of whether to eliminate the class or engage efforts to increase the student enrollment.
As I spent time talking with MCC students at the college a few weeks ago, the most often repeated wish was to have access to more distance learning (online) classes. Many of them work jobs letting out in the early morning hours (i.e., 1 a.m.) making online classes more desirable; others voiced concerns about the distance they had to come to attend, and the difficulty of driving in the dark or during inclement weather.
3. What’s your position on space needs at the college? Do you agree with the $16.8 million science building plan?
I understand and agree with the concept of science labs and facilities that are as up-to-date as possible, balanced with the fact that taxpayer funds are not a never-ending resource. Originally this plan was in the realm of $45 million, so the current $16- to $17-million is more than a 50% reduction. Additionally, a $9 per credit hour fee (“user fee”) has been established to help pay for the project – even for those students who will not be using that building. I’d be more confident in this decision if the building would absolutely be used to its full capacity the majority of times, but I’ve seen no research to indicate our student population demanding science degrees is about to expand significantly.
During the MCC Faculty interview of candidates recently, I expressed my grave concerns relative to population drop in Illinois in general and McHenry County in particular. My conversation included the fact that Rock Valley College has lost 5,000 students in the past five years (per channel 17 news), making reduction in their staff necessary and I felt we had to be prepared for the same scenario here. Unless and until Illinois can become more financially stable, I would hesitate to move forward with any more expansion projects.
4. What will be the biggest challenge that McHenry County College will face over the next four years and how will you meet it?
Accepting the fact that the State of Illinois will not have unlimited resources with which to bless MCC has got to be our first priority. Once we accept it, we can look at other options, as outlined in question #2 above. As an institution of higher learning, I would certainly think we could all work together (students, faculty, administration, and Board) to come up with some creative ideas to do more with less. As our population continues to dwindle and newcomers arrive with less wealth than those leaving who take their wealth with them, the financial constraints will become more pronounced. Developing better communications with area businesses, former students and the community at-large can open conversations for new cost-saving partnerships. The College must also be led by Trustees willing to step up and face the reality that a graduation rate of 28% is nothing to be proud of. Too many individuals get elected and become part of the bureaucracy; this is not the role of a Trustee.
The Board is not in place to serve administration; the Board is in place to serve the community.
5. Do you agree with the board’s recent decisions on layoffs? Why or why not?
Generally speaking, salaries are the largest portion of expenses in most business situations. When projected revenues fail to materialize, whether due to decreased enrollment or deferred receivables, the quickest way to staunch the bleeding is to eliminate a portion of the employees from the payroll. Not having been privy to the backup information which led the Board to this decision targeting these particular employees, it’s difficult for me to totally agree that these would have been my choice for terminations. Again, during my ‘interview’ with faculty a couple weeks prior to the announcement of these terminations, I brought up the terminations at Rock Valley and suggested MCC was not in any way sheltered from the prospects of the same issue. It’s not a question of whether or not these people are ‘nice’ people; every staff/faculty/administration person I’ve spoken with has been a ‘nice’ person. These are always difficult decisions and should have been based on which positions are absolutely essential to the role of education at MCC, and which we can afford to relinquish – even if only short term.
6. What do you consider to be McHenry County College’s primary role in the community?
There’s no doubt MCC’s primary goal is education/higher learning. Their Mission Statement says: “Our focus is learning. Student success is our goal.” While there are certainly several categories of learning, it doesn’t say their mission is the best health and fitness club, the best baseball team, or the best underwater polo team. Their mission is to offer opportunities for learning – regardless of the age or goals of their students. As I’ve said before, there are various reasons for people to take advantage of learning opportunities: Some are working toward a degree or certification, others are fine-tuning their skills to move-up or stay current in their present job, still others simply want additional knowledge or skills for their own pleasure and enjoyment. Each of the appropriate educational arenas must be balanced with what the students are willing to pay, as well as what the taxpayers are willing to pay.