Endorsement: Daily Herald says 'yes' to Harper College referendum
In the half century of Harper College's existence, it has developed into a jewel of the Northwest suburbs, a proud and innovative institution of higher education and, in this era, vital workforce retraining. It is an active partner with area high schools, universities, businesses, an area park district and the community at large.
It also has been a careful steward of taxpayer dollars.
Despite the lack of reliability of financial support from Springfield, the school has managed its resources well. It has maintained an important AAA bond rating. It has built a solid but not irresponsible fund balance. It has restrained tuition so that in the past five years, it has gone from 34th most affordable tuition rate among 48 community colleges in Illinois to 19th most affordable.
On Election Day, the school will be asking voters to approve $180 million in borrowing to continue its excellent and important work. If the bond issue passes, taxpayers would not notice the impact. The tax on the borrowing essentially would extend the tax behind a $153.6 million dollar bond approved in 2008 that is about to be fully repaid.
That's not to kid anybody. It is, after all, a tax. If the bond issue fails in referendum, homeowners otherwise would see a small tax cut, about $48 a year for the owner of a $500,000 house.
The borrowing would pay for a building to house a regional economic development hub and the college's University Center, where students can complete bachelor's degrees through Harper's partnerships with Northern Illinois, DePaul and Roosevelt universities; needed renovations totaling $88.7 million to older academic buildings on campus; and infrastructure improvements.
These are priorities for Harper's future, college officials say, to drive economic opportunity, educate for the high-tech jobs of today and tomorrow and maintain and improve the college's infrastructure.
These are needed improvements, well thought out and responsibly planned. Harper has earned the community's trust and thanks. We endorse a yes vote.