Budget, property taxes key issues in calm COD board race
Two years ago, a dozen candidates sought election to the College of DuPage board of trustees in one of the hottest races in the suburbs.
This election cycle, however, the campaign is considerably more low-key with just four hopefuls vying for three seats on the panel that oversees the Glen Ellyn-based community college.
Three of the candidates are running for two 6-year terms in the April 4 election. They are Wheaton library board President Christine Fenne, Addison Elementary District 4 school board member Taso Triantafillos and COD student Daniel Markwell of Lombard.
The fourth candidate, Alan Bennett of Lombard, is running unopposed for one 2-year term.
No incumbents are in the race.
Fenne says she believes potential candidates were scared off by the political firestorm that fueled COD's last election.
In 2015, the contest focused on controversies surrounding former college President Robert Breuder. It ended with the ouster of two incumbents by candidates who vowed to bring change.
Fenne, a sales account executive from Wheaton, says people have asked her why she wants to get involved with the "mess" at COD.
"I want to make it better because I'm proud of COD and what it is as an institution," Fenne said.
Triantafillos, who works in cyber security, says he would like to contribute to what COD board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi has done with the college's budget.
"I want to make sure we bring fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency to the taxpayers," Triantafillos said.
As a COD student, Markwell says he's concerned with the direction the college is going.
"Obviously, we had a lot of issues during the end of Breuder's tenure as president," Markwell said. "Now we have a lot of budget constraints due to falling enrollment and a lack of state funding."
He said he wants to make sure there's a focus on the students and providing them with the highest quality education possible.
Triantafillos said the best way for COD to increase enrollment is to add "new programs, new certifications, new options for students to pursue."
In addition, he said, the COD board must help the staff and faculty by providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs.
When it comes to COD's budget, Markwell said the school should hold the line on property taxes during the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
He said he doesn't see any reason why the college would want or need to increase property taxes when it has roughly $197 million in its reserve fund.
"That's all taxpayer and tuition money," Markwell said. "So I think it would be more prudent and more responsible for us to look at ways to spend that money and reinvest it into the college to grow enrollment and improve the quality of education."
Fenne said the board should develop a policy for the reserve fund.
For example, she said, part of the reserve cash should be kept as "a safety net." Officials also need to make sure there's enough money for future building maintenance and technology upgrades, she said.
"The budget should be developed based on the revenue that we have -- that we know that's coming in," said Fenne, adding she supports the board's efforts to keep tuition flat and hold the line on property taxes.