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updated: 3/21/2014 5:17 PM

COD shifts finances to plan for classroom construction

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College of DuPage trustees have voted to reallocate $33 million in fund reserves to prepare for the proposed construction of a building to house additional classrooms.

Trustees on Thursday set aside the money for a potential Teaching and Learning Center, which college President Robert Breuder said would be built west of Lambert Road, where previous buildings near the ponds have been demolished.

The college already had the money in its $143 million reserve account, but Thursday's action moved it from a general-purpose designation to set it aside specifically for construction of the classroom building.

During peak class hours of 9 a.m. to noon and 5 to 10 p.m., Breuder said the college is "fully subscribed," using all the space it has available at its main campus in Glen Ellyn. Faculty members have said the college needs more physics labs, chemistry or biology labs and surgical technology space, as enrollment continues to increase from 28,627 full-time and part-time students last fall.

"We don't have any classroom space to spare," Breuder said. "If we want to take the enrollment, increase the market share, educate more taxpayers, I need more space."

Breuder said he has asked faculty to compile a complete list of the spaces the college needs and why they are necessary "to better serve students and serve more students."

That list could be developed into a request for trustee approval of a Teaching and Learning Center as soon as this summer or fall, Breuder said. If the building is approved, it likely will take two years to complete.

Breuder said the college has built up reserves from $56.9 million in 2008 to the current $143 million, which gives flexibility to plan for projects such as a Teaching and Learning Center without depending on state funding or asking voters for a tax increase.

The college in 2010 sought and received voter approval of a tax extension to provide $168 million for facility improvements, but that money all has been spent.

"I have no desire to go out and ask the taxpayers again within four years," Breuder said.

That's why he suggested trustees reallocate funding from general purpose reserves to plan for future expenses of the classroom construction project. The measure was approved unanimously.

When trustees approved the reallocation of funds for the potential Teaching and Learning Center, they did so as part of a package of changes to the designated uses of funds in the college's reserves. The changes took the amount designated as "restricted" reserves, or funds that are allocated for a specific purpose, from roughly $52 million to $91 million. The total amount in reserves remains at $143 million.

Other changes to reserve allocations decreased funds dedicated for pension payments from $22 million to $17 million and funds dedicated to technology from $8 million to $5 million. Funding of $14 million was added to the "restricted" reserve list for retiree health insurance liability, while money for other items that have dedicated reserves stayed the same at $16 million for operation and maintenance and $6.25 million for capital development.

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