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Lopsided WCC Board of Trustees Harms Washtenaw County

In 2022, I wrote about the outsized representation that the City of Ann Arbor has on the WCC Board of Trustees. Six out of the seven trustees live in the City of Ann Arbor, yet the City of Ann Arbor comprises less than 36% of all real property in Washtenaw County. The disparity extends to the amount of tax revenues the County collects for WCC as well.

In 2023, Washtenaw County assessed about $71.7M in taxes on real property in Washtenaw County on behalf of Washtenaw Community College. The City of Ann Arbor generated about $25.1M of the total. That means the other $56M comes from outside of the City of Ann Arbor. Based on preliminary taxable value information from the county, in 2024, WCC’s tax proceeds will be about $76.1M.

That’s an awful lot of money coming from communities outside of Ann Arbor, and those communities have virtually no representation on WCC’s Board of Trustees. No one speaks on behalf of the more than two dozen other cities and townships in Washtenaw County. No one brings their perspective to the Board or to the administration.

That’s why the WCC Board of Trustees has adopted a country club mentality. In their minds, they believe that WCC has plenty of money to absorb all of the expenses (and losses) for a quasi-private, members-only health club that was paid for with public dollars authorized for WCC’s operational expenses.

It’s why the Trustees believe that WCC has enough money to create a convention center on campus and fund the construction and operation of a hotel. And that barricading off the main entrance to the College and selling retail spaces in the parking lot are good expenditures of the County’s educational taxes.

Poor decisions, skewed perspective, limited results

It’s also why WCC has enough money for a dozen vice presidents (some of whose titles have been quietly changed) but only $300,000 for maintenance for a 1.2M square foot campus. That’s twenty-five cents per square foot. In what circumstance is that anything other than absolutely ludicrous?

The country club mentality is also why WCC has never bothered to make anything more than a minimal investment in instruction for the last decade. WCC doesn’t have clean energy programs, or urban agriculture programs, or a clean room to teach about extremely lucrative semiconductor manufacturing. It’s why the Administration – with the WCC Board of Trustees’ blessing – pursued certificate programs over degree programs. They’ve pushed this so far that WCC is no longer considered a two-year school because it focuses on non-degree certificates.

In other words, WCC more closely resembles a truck driving school than a community college.

The Country Club doesn’t serve the needs of Ypsilanti, or Saline, or Chelsea. None of this improves the lives of people living in poverty throughout Washtenaw County. And instead of creating educational and work opportunities, the WCC Board of Trustees has thrown away the County’s educational tax dollars on new treadmills, resurfacing swimming pools, and fixing hot tubs.

They’ve authorized huge tuition discounts for people who live OUTSIDE of Washtenaw County who want to take online classes, while simultaneously charging a premium for Washtenaw County residents who want to take the same online classes.

It’s also why the WCC Board of Trustees refuses to put bond issues on the ballot and won’t allow the citizens of Washtenaw County to fill vacancies on the board. They appoint new members themselves. (They can’t trust you to turn down a tax request or pick the Country Club’s preferred candidates, so they will go around you.)

Consider filing for a seat on the WCC Board of Trustees

When I say we need Trustees from other parts of the county, I really mean it. WCC suffers mightily when City of Ann Arbor residents control 86% of the Board seats but provide just 35% of the local funding for the college.

The cost of living in Washtenaw County is 20% higher than it is in the rest of the state. It costs more to live in Washtenaw County than in 81 other counties in Michigan. Yet, WCC consistently fails to graduate 72% of its students. Those who graduate make an average of about $36,000 per year. If you live in Washtenaw County, you already know that you can’t live in Washtenaw County on $36,000 per year.

Enough is enough. The rest of Washtenaw County supplies 65% of WCC’s local tax revenues and deserves some representation on the WCC Board of Trustees. It is time to correct the gross imbalance that has taken root there.

For that to happen, residents who live outside the City of Ann Arbor need to step up. The deadline for filing as a candidate for an open WCC Trustee seat in the November election is July 23. If you have ever thought about running for the WCC Board, right now is the time to think that over.

Photo Credit: Dan Perry, via Flickr