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WCC Board of Trustees: a watchdog that won’t watch

The taxpayers of Washtenaw County pay an awful lot for WCC, just as we have since 1965. The WCC Board of Trustees has a responsibility to provide oversight of the administration it hired. In theory, the Administration answers to the Board. Right now, that’s not happening, and it hasn’t happened for years. We have a WCC Board of Trustees who – collectively – cannot seem to say “No.” That’s great for the Administration, but it’s a bad deal for the taxpayers, the students and the staff.

In 2018-19, WCC took in $110,716,386 in revenues from all sources. In 2019-20, WCC received $111,119,605 – which included the hit from the pandemic. Initially, WCC based the 2019-20 budget on revenue projections of $112,715,839.

The points I’m making here are:

  1. WCC routinely has a nine-figure budget, and
  2. the Board approves literally everything the Administration puts in front of it.

That’s a lot of money, and not a lot of oversight, don’t you think?

The only motion the Board has turned down since 2015 came from one of its own members. (That, by the way, was a tuition freeze.) The resulting $1 tuition increase generated an additional $232,000 in tuition revenue (two-tenths of one percent of WCC’s overall revenues) in a year where WCC ran an $8M budget surplus.Four Trustees (two of whom are still sitting on the Board) shamefully shook down the students for what amounted to nickels and dimes in the context of WCC’s overall budget.

The WCC Board of Trustees is responsible for WCC’s deteriorating financial condition

Now… fast forward to 2020. WCC is now running a structural deficit.

“Structural deficit” has a specific meaning. It means that even when the economy is running at its very best, and an organization is taking in the maximum amount of money that it can, it has “programmed” itself to spend more money than it takes in.

WCC is running out of money, but not because of the pandemic. Even before the pandemic arose, WCC had a structural deficit.

Here is the sad reality.

The WCC Administration overspends itself. The WCC Board of Trustees is supposed to exercise ultimate spending authority, but does not. They merely sign off on whatever the Administration asks for.

Lots of money. No oversight.

As a result, WCC has 10 Vice Presidents, but the College is laying off staff and cutting programs.

Lots of money. No oversight

WCC fired its own IT staff and bought into a $26M, no-bid contract for IT services.

Lots of money. No oversight

WCC has once again delayed the renovation of the Morris Lawrence Building. Fully 90% of the projected budget will go to correct problems created by long-standing neglect.

Lots of money. No oversight

The Board has approved the diversion of operating funds to build a building that has no academic value. (Remember, WCC is now running a deficit, and it could really use its operating money for operations).

Lots of money. No oversight

This is a recipe for disaster. We cannot blindly continue to return Trustees to the Board who are voluntarily complicit in the mismanagement of tens of millions of dollars meant for the betterment of our community.

We deserve better. The students deserve better.

WCCWatch: Martin Thomas | WCCWatch: David DeVarti | WCCWatch: Christina Fleming | WCCWatch: Ruth Hatcher

Photo Credit: Cristiano Baro , via Flickr