March 4, 2006

More on Black Hawk referendum

A piece at QC Online clears up some of the fuzzy math presented in an earlier post based on a mailing from Blackhawk.
Black Hawk College district will ask taxpayers to approve a 23 percent tax rate increase on the March 21 ballot to offset losses in state aid and increasing costs.

The district is asking voters to approve a 15.5 cent tax rate increase to the current 41.79 cent tax rate. However, if approved, the state will remove a 6.14 cent equity tax rate, for a net increase of 9.88 cents. The new rate would be 51.67 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation.

Under Illinois law, the college is allowed to charge district taxpayers at a tax rate that would bring its rate closer to other community college's property tax rates. If the 15.5-cent increase is approved, the equity tax rate becomes obsolete and the state removes the tax rate.

The new rate will replace the $2.8 million Black Hawk has lost in state aid since fiscal year 2001, said executive assistant to the president, Chanda Dowell. This is the first time the college has asked for property tax rate increase in 20 years, she said.
A commenter on the previous post noted that she fully supported BHC and what it does, but that she's just slammed with taxes and stuggles to pay them as it is, so can't support this measure.

That's an understandible position, but this increase would be better spent and provide higher returns to the community than almost any other purpose which taxes currently pay for. In a large respect, Black Hawk is part of the local school system, with so many people taking advantage of it's ability to prepare them for careers and further education at 4 year institutions. (As a matter of fact, years ago, due to the high number of students who go directly to Black Hawk after graduation, some wags referred to BHC as "high school with ashtrays". Or my fave, A Blackhawk student saying he attended "SMU".... South Moline University.)

At any rate, among uses for tax dollars, this has got to be among the most warrented and the most productive.

The only downside, as noted in the article,
For the past two years, tuition and fees at BHC have increased by 32.7 percent since 2000 to try to make up for the loss in state aid. Tuition and fees paid by Black Hawk's approximately 13,000 students currently make up about 39 percent of revenues.

"We have to be careful not to overprice ourselves and close access to students who need access to the college," Ms. Dowell said.

About 70 percent the college's budget goes to salaries and benefits. To keep control of those costs, Ms. Dowell said the union members have been asked to pay more out-of-pocket for their health insurance.

However, the faculty received "a modest 3 percent" increase to their salaries this fiscal year, Ms. Dowell said, which is a "lower increase" than they've had in the past. The college still is negotiating with the United Auto Workers and the Illinois Education Association unions on their contracts that end June 30.
If this referendum passes, one wonders what effect, if any, it will have on the high tuition costs. Also, it seems unfortunate that such a huge percentage of it's budget is going for salaries and if that cost is in line with other similar colleges. 70% of a large budget seems very high for personel costs, and it appears that the two unions involved obviously have played a large part in that being the case.

But this may be a case where property owners in the area have to close their eyes and vote yes, knowing that the greater good is being served, and perhaps consider it a very modest donation to a good cause.


At 3/04/2006 3:30 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

When I was going to Scott they always told us some semi-depressing information. I believe you said something like this on an earlier post, but it was something like when people graduate from a trade or tech school like 90% of them stay in the area, community college was something like 80% and state universities were way down at 30% or something. Yet, at least in Iowa, the state pays far more per student to state colleges, which essentially train people to leave the state.

Those stats are made up because it was years ago that I was told this, but they were along those lines.


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