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Kishwaukee College OKs 1.45 percent increase in tax levy

October 12, 2016 GMT

MALTA – Kishwaukee College won’t hit property taxpayers up for much more money as part of its 2016 levy, and the 1.45 percent increase that trustees approved Tuesday actually might be a blip on the tax bill.

“I’m a farmer ... so real estate taxes are a major expense for us, and every homeowner, every business in our community,” said Bob Johnson, chairman of the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. “So our role is to not make that burden any heavier than it already is.”

Trustees voted unanimously at their regular monthly meeting to approve the college’s $14.3 million levy for 2016. The amount includes $5.8 million that would be used for educational purposes, according to the college’s financial data.

The levy funds about 41 percent of the college’s annual budget. Last month, trustees approved a $34.5 million spending plan for fiscal 2017, which runs July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017.

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The total that the two-year college is looking to collect for 2016 is $203,210 more than the 2015 levy. Despite the school’s financial woes, Johnson and other officials are OK with not tapping property owners for more.

“We recognize the need to control the amount that our taxpayers are expected to pay and to contribute,” said Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz.

Amid state funding uncertainty, declining enrollment that equates to decreased tuition revenue and other dogging financial circumstances, the college was able to hold the 2016 levy at only 1.45 percent more than the year before.

However, being able to do that literally cost some people their jobs. Kishwaukee College experienced in March what has been called the biggest layoff in the college’s history. There were 24 people let go. Some other positions won’t get filled – at least not in the near future, officials have said.

“We’ve gone through a lot of belt-tightening,” Johnson said. “There’s a considerable savings in personnel costs. There were people in our community who lost their jobs, but we really didn’t have an option.”

The state has dealt the college some financial blows as well. In fact, the levy approved is seven times more than the $2 million the college has budgeted to receive from the state this fiscal year. And that amount is less than half of the $5 million or more the college received in state aid in previous years.

Kishwaukee College serves DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, Boone, Kane, Winnebago and LaSalle counties. Officials predict that the school will continue to hold its own, at least for now.

“We’ll make it through this year,” Johnson said. “The real, long-term question is: Will our state ever return to supporting higher ed the way it once did? Nobody really knows the answer to that.”