McHenry County College’s Board of Trustees has voted to increase its tax levy instead of raising tuition costs.
The decision came after a debate between board members on whether the need for increased revenue should fall on taxpayers or students. The tax levy proposal was considered first, and board members opted to table the discussion on a proposed tuition hike indefinitely at the Oct. 24 meeting.
The proposed property tax levy in the upcoming fiscal year is about $28.6 million, a 2.6% increase over last year’s $27.9 million levy. The increase will bring in an additional $730,566 to the college and cost the average taxpayer an extra $5.15 annually, according to board documents.
Calculations assume the average taxpayer has a home with a fair market value of $222,381 with an EAV of about $75,804, according to board documents.
Officials said the proposed tuition hike of $7 per credit hour was projected to bring in about $723,863.
Board members approved the measure after some debate, with Board Chairman Mike Smith and Trustees Diane Evertsen and Molly Walsh voting against the increase and Trustees Tom Allen, Suzanne Hoban, Mary Beth Siddons, Elizabeth Speros and student Trustee Andres Rendon in favor of the increase. Smith said he felt that an increase to taxpayers was the wrong approach to increasing funding. He said he would prefer to see tuition increases over property tax hikes, because the college is already one of the most affordable options in the state.
“A tuition rate increase impacts a student for two years on average,” Smith said. “You impact the taxpayer perhaps for a lifetime and may destroy their ability to stay in the community. ... Our measurement of growth is student headcount and billable tuition hours. For me, that is where we look first.”
The college has seen a recent increase in enrollment. In the fall, MCC has 7,475 students, a 6.3% increase from last fall, and a 17% jump from 6,371 students in 2016, according to the MCC.
But some board members said the increase was minimal and appropriate, considering the college hasn’t increased its levy since 2012.
“There has been an effort to control costs. There has been staff reduction. We are really trying to pare down any expenses to the bone in an attempt to keep things affordable for the students and taxpayers,” Hoban said. “I feel this increase is reasonable.”
The board is expected to adopt the proposed levy at its Nov. 21 meeting. A public hearing will be held 6 p.m., prior to the meeting at the college, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake, in Room A217.