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Local News

JJC officials at odds over financial challenges

The Joliet Junior College Renaissance Center stands alight on March 31 in downtown Joliet.
The Joliet Junior College Renaissance Center stands alight on March 31 in downtown Joliet.

JOLIET – Joliet Junior College might be in for trying times if the state budget impasse continues, especially with sharp disputes among its trustees. 

Those disputes boiled to the surface at a Tuesday meeting when the board approved, among other things, a salary increase for JJC President Judy Mitchell, the budget and the reappointment of grant-funded staff.

Trustees Andrew Mihelich and Alicia Morales pulled several items from the agenda for discussion as they were hesitant to approve a salary increase for Mitchell or other expenses in the face of uncertain state funding and a tuition hike. 

However, board Vice Chairwoman Maureen Broderick was insistent on the board following parliamentary procedures and not “double guessing” Mitchell’s response to the state budget crisis.

Morales and Broderick were at odds throughout the meeting after Broderick motioned to limit discussion of agenda items, which Board President Robert Wunderlich said could be done. At one point, Morales asked Broderick to not be disrespectful to her and Broderick accused Morales of micromanaging.

Wunderlich said he spoke with Morales and Broderick after the meeting, saying he didn’t want to continue being a referee for them and that they needed to work together. 

“Everyone’s got to start working together,” Wunderlich said. 

JJC officials said they expect to receive only 50 percent of state funding next fiscal year, and the board approved the tuition increase to help keep operations afloat. College officials have blamed for their woes the lack of state funding and continued inaction by state lawmakers to agree on and pass a budget. 

Since 2011, the college has trimmed millions in operational costs. Mitchell has said the college will continue to reduce costs to help reduce the financial burden for students as well as keep staff salaries low compared to peer institutions. After the college’s final audit, she said she expects JJC will have positive financial statements. 

“Over time, we have reduced programmatic budgets, not filled vacant positions and delayed campus improvement projects, amongst other things. Due to these efforts, we continue to ask our employees to provide the same quality services with less resources,” Mitchell said in an email. 

A continual concern for Morales is the college’s spending. At the May 1 meeting as well as on Tuesday, Morales has expressed concern over approving contracts, salaries and other expenses while the college struggles with enrollment and hikes tuition amid the state budget crisis.

At both meetings, Broderick remained adamant that the board follow parliamentary procedure. Broderick asserts that college officials she met through the Governance Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., said the procedures are needed so the board does not become dysfunctional. Questions for Mitchell should be asked before the meeting, she said.

She said she’s not trying to be rude, but “very business and matter-of-fact.”

Morales said she feels as though she’s being badgered by Broderick, and that she’s not micromanaging but asking questions to “determine if the way we are managing the budget” is the best for taxpayers and students. 

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