MCCC asks voters for millage

For the first time in 34 years, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a millage proposal for MCCC in the November 2014 election.

“We haven’t had a millage since 1980,” President Kojo Quartey said. “We’ve been around for 50 years, we have buildings that are crumbling — East Tech, West Tech — we have a boiler plant that has a life expectancy of 20 years that has been operating at 35 years,” Quartey said.

The millage also is needed to main- tain the quality of existing programs and add new ones in high-demand fields, Quartey said.

It also will help to keep tuition af- fordable, after a half-dozen years of increases, he said.

After several years of discussion, fueled by tighter and tighter budgets, the subject moved to the front burner a year ago when Quartey was hired. He began a discussion that ended in August when the Board of Trustees approved a 1 mill proposal for the No- vember election. The college millage is currently at 2.1794. The 1 mill increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $4 a month.

It would generate about $5 million for the college. The millage proposal will help stu- dents in a variety of ways, according to Joe Verkennes, director of Marketing Communications. It will help to maintain current pro- grams, explore new programs, im- prove student services, update tech services and facilities and help keep tuition low, he said.

It’s expensive to operate programs already offered at MCCC, such as the culinary and nursing programs, Verkennes said. But with the millage, the college would be able to main- tain and expand such programs. MCCC would also be able to maintain student services, like in- ternships, tutoring and mentoring — services that need to expand but are not capable of expanding due to funding. Verkennes said that MCCC would like to also explore new programs, such as a Physical Therapist Assistant program or a Dental Assistant program.

There are other areas that have been struggling, such as MCCC’s disability services and student ser- vices programs.

“We have a lot more students using our Learning Assistance Lab and our disability services than we’ve had before, but we haven’t been able to expand our staffing and the services that we offer,” Verkennes said. “We’ve had to meet the require- ments by law, which then takes away resources from other areas of student services.”

Renovations and technology advancement also are lagging be- hind. “There is $10 million in facili- ties maintenance and renovations that need to be done that have been deferred,” Verkennes said.

Verkennes also said more than half of the computers used at MCCC are more than six years old. Without the millage, the tech- nology gap will just increase.

“Computer technology will continue to lag behind for the re- quirements for today’s jobs and then critical areas of physical plant will begin to fail and won’t be able to be addressed, likely without the college borrowing money,” he said.

Another area of concern is tuition, Verkennes said. Without the millage,  tuition likely will con- tinue to increase.

“The college is going to be- come less affordable for students, the tuition increases for students, the tuition increases will continue and they will likely accelerate,” said Verkennes.

MCCC has been operating for more than 50 years for residents in and around Monroe County.

“More than 30% of students of all high school graduates of Monroe County start their college education here at MCCC,” Verkennes said. “Two-thirds of MCCC graduates stay in Monroe County and contribute to the local economy, so that keeps money and tax dollars in Monroe County and helps build the economy.”

William Bacarella, president of the MCCC Board of Trustees, agrees that this community needs MCCC to continue to serve the county, although he said that The Board of Trustees is not fond of the idea of asking for a tax levy.

“It’s a difficult thing to ask the public for money, but I guess I remind everyone involved from faculty to students to the taxpayers to administrators, this isn’t Bill Bacarella’s College, this isn’t Dr. Quartey’s College, it’s the county of Monroe’s College,” Bacarella said.

So far the response from the community seems to be positive. One taxpaying-student is okay with the millage if it helps keep MCCC alive.

“I would absolutely approve the millage increase," said MCCC student and homeowner Michelle Sarchenko." I support our public school systems, including the college, and understand the needs to improve the facilities and maintain our current staff. 

"Not only am I a parent of two sons currently enrolled at MCCC, I am also a full-time student at this college,” she said. “I feel the facilities are well-maintained but still need renovations in certain areas including the technology systems.”

Faculty and staff are prohibited from giving personal opinions on the topic while on school premises. A flier was given to employees stating what is allowed and isn’t allowed in answering questions or talking about the millage on campus.

“No employees of the college may use public facilities or public time to advocate a position on the millage proposal,” the flier states.

However, informational materials can be passed out as long as they do not advocate a position on the millage. Employes are allowed to engage in campaigning activities when they are off duty. 

For more information, you can visit the college’s website for the millage at www.monroeccc.edu/millage.