McHenry County College board to consider tax levy increase

CRYSTAL LAKE – The McHenry County College Board of Trustees heard a recommendation Wednesday to increase the tax levy by about 1.4 percent, which would include the anticipation of new property growth.

Trustees weighed in during the regular board meeting, but did not give Chief Financial Officer Bob Tenuta official direction. President Vicky Smith said that likely will come at next month’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

“The administration recommended setting the levy to take advantage of the 0.8 percent [Consumer Price Index] and new growth,” Smith said.

Tenuta said for a home with a market value of $250,000, the increase would add an estimated $0.98 a month, or $11.79 a year, on property tax bills, assuming there’s no change in equalized assessed value.

Tenuta estimated the college would be asking for a total of about $28.36 million. Under this suggestion, there would be a collective $390,000 increase, factoring in new property growth.

During his presentation, Tenuta said the college’s operating revenue stream has remained fairly flat the past five years, which is a factor that has played into the college’s downward-trending financial health as inflation has raised certain operating costs.

The recommended increase sparked a debate between trustees about which resources should be tapped to address a need for increased revenue.

Student Trustee Jason Memmen noted while the board has opted to keep the tax levy flat the past two years, student tuition rates have gone up.

“By no means was I saying the taxpayers need to contribute everything possible as the only funding source,” he said. “All I was saying is we’ve done this [raise tuition] the last two years, and haven’t done this [increase the tax levy] the last two years.”

Chairman Mike Smith responded, saying the board needed to be sensitive to the taxpayers because there is a population of the county that doesn’t necessarily draw any direct value from the college.

“So to go to that taxpayer time and time again to say we’re going to increase your taxes – no one’s denying our costs are going up; no one’s denying our challenges are increasing more and more – but if I’ve got to look at one bucket versus the other, I’m going to turn to the population that I can objectively say is deriving some real value from any increases in cost they’re going to incur,” Mike Smith said.

Community colleges should be supported by a “three-legged stool,” Vice Chair Linda Liddell said, adding it’s a model that doesn’t necessarily work in this area.

“So the majority of the weight is on the taxpayers – the community owners here – and the students end up getting the second share, and the state for years and years and years has been paying less and less and less,” Liddell said.

Trustee Cynthia Kisser said it shouldn’t be the college’s practice to continuously go to one source year after year, while other trustees suggested looking into more cost-cutting or cost-saving solutions rather than depending on increased revenue.

Tenuta said he’s hoping to get a more concrete idea as to whether board members are open to an increased levy during the next meeting. If the support is not there, he would bring a flat levy for board approval later in November or December.

The levy must be filed by the last Tuesday in December.

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