What you need to know about the April 2019 election
Name: Kevin Rust
Town: Glen Carbon
Occupation: Retired financial advisor
Position Seeking: trustee for the Lewis & Clark Community College Board of Trustees
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I want to establish true accountability which is sorely lacking in the current BOT. LCCC is a fine college but the current BOT majority exercises no real, effective governance and thus has allowed the administration to divert attention away from the focus that should be on the students and on accountability to the taxpayers. People should vote for me because I am more than suitably qualified academically as I earned the Certified Public Accountant designation, the Certified Internal Auditor designation and have a Masters in Business Administration from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE). My diverse work experience includes Chief Financial Officer in private industry and recently retiring as a personal financial advisor. Currently I serve on the finance board of Metro East Lutheran High School and on the SIUE Foundation Board of Directors as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance and Investment Committee.
What are the most important issues the facing the community college, and how would you approach them? First, LCCC has a crushing debt of $130MM which was never approved by taxpayers. The budgeted principal and interest for 2018-19 is $8.3MM and $5.4MM respectively, total $13.7MM which is not sustainable. The interest alone of $5.4MM is expected to be over 7% of expenditures. As a comparison, Southwest Illinois College (SWIC) has only about $20.0MM of debt with almost twice as many students. Second, the BOT must address the excessive property tax increases never approved by the taxpayers. For example my LCCC property tax has increased 26.8% in the last five years. Third, the excessive non-student focused expenditures (administrative costs and other) must be reduced. I would establish bench-marks to measure the performance of LCCC compared to its peers and work with the Illinois Community College Board to formulate needed improvements.
Under what circumstances would you vote to raise property taxes or fees for the college? I would be extremely reluctant to raise property taxes under any circumstances especially because Illinois, by some measures, already has the highest property taxes in the United States. Student fees need to be kept as reasonable as possible. All fees must be established and evaluated based on the optimal value proposition for the students. I applaud the fact that LCCC (and SIUE) were recently able to hold tuition steady.
What are your goals for the community college/what do you want to accomplish? My main goals and what I want to accomplish have mostly been covered in the previous questions and detailed answers. Of course there is a lot more to do. I summarize by saying that I want LCCC to be viable, sustainable, efficient and effective.
Enrollment has been dropping at community colleges around the state. How should schools try to reverse that trend? Yes, enrollment has been dropping at community colleges, and at almost all colleges and universities for that matter, for several years. For example the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) enrollment at LCCC has decreased 20% since 2008, however, costs have not. (Why not?) There is no option for reversing the overall trend of dropping enrollment because it is driven by pure demographics, although some schools, such as SIUE, have been able to keep enrollment steady.