Good evening. Tonight the Board contemplates a proposed budget that we hope is aligned with the fundamentally instructional mission of the College of DuPage. And it is on the heels of an improved state allocation as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, the recently approved state budget provides that “Community colleges will receive a 12.3 percent increase from the 2018-19 school year, up $33.2 million for a total budget of $303 million.” So in addition to our recently increased student tuition, and this improved state funding, it will be telling to watch how and if COD’s reserve fund balance continues to increase as well.
Over time, it is clear that the COD Board and Administration have been very fiscally responsible and conservative in building up a large reserve fund. And for a lot of school boards, no fund balance is too large, especially as they look to an uncertain future and recall unpleasant memories of the recent state budget impasses. But as the saying goes, we fund our priorities. And when we look at the decisions that have been made over time by COD Boards, especially regarding capital projects at this school that have ultimately made for unpleasant headlines, we are left wondering: when you look at the trends (in our audits more so than in our annual budgets), do expenditures at COD reflect the instructional mission of the College of DuPage? Have instructional expenditures increased, decreased, or remained static over the past ten years? When COD receives higher than projected revenue (say, beyond the conservative estimate of a 1% increase in the tax levy), is that planned into instructional expenses, or is it swept into the fund balance?
Ultimately, you are contemplating next year’s budget, but we urge you to reflect on the trends represented in the past ten years of expenditures at this College, and consider the question: is instruction a priority at COD and is that priority reflected in this proposed budget?