Three candidates vying for two John Wood board positions

JWCC Board candidates, from left: Rich Marcolla, Randy Sims and Jerry Hagmeier
Posted: Mar. 22, 2013 3:12 pm Updated: Apr. 18, 2013 5:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the John Wood Community College Board of Trustees in the April 9 election.

Incumbent Randy Sims, former board member Jerry Hagmeier and first-time challenger Rich Marcolla are seeking the seats that carry six-year terms.

Trustees whose terms are set to expire are Sims and Gary Carter. Carter is not seeking re-election.

Sims is a livestock and grain farmer, Hagmeier is a retired JWCC instructor and former JWCC trustee and Marcolla is a resident director for Merrill Lynch in Quincy. Hagmeier and Marcolla live in Quincy. Sims resides in Liberty.

Arguably the most pressing issues for the college are tied to the delinquency of payments from the state and the ongoing budget crisis in Springfield. JWCC budgeted $2.6 million from the state for the current school year and at this point was due $1.4 million of that total. To date, $400,000 has been received.

In recent years, similar tardy payments from the state have forced the college to undergo a series of budget, staff and other cuts in order to operate in a solvent fashion. More cutbacks may be needed if reports that Gov. Pat Quinn plans to cut an additional 6-10 percent of the funding for community colleges pan out.

None of the candidates see any relief in sight for community colleges when it comes to the state aid crisis.

"(John Wood) must develop a new model for teaching our students," Sims said. "In my opinion, that model will include more cooperation with local businesses, reductions in some programs and possibly reductions in total staff at the college. The college must focus on providing the best education we can for our students on reduced resources."

At this point, Sims, who is currently serving as board president, does not feel reduction in staff can be avoided.

"However, if we can obtain growth in our credit hours ... reduction may be minimal," he said.

Hagmeier called the Illinois General Assembly "irresponsible" for its lack of funding for community colleges in recent years.

"As this continues, (John Wood) will have to look at all expenses and incomes to maintain a balanced budget," he said.

Hagmeier said during his previous time as a trustee (2005-11) he encouraged the JWCC administration to reduce expenses, both for the college and its students.

"Consolidating and eliminating outdated classes and programs and supporting the concept of all faculty members also teaching classes resulted in reduced expenses and a more effective use of faculty," he said. "Eliminating Friday classes for students reduced their commuting expenses while it consolidated faculty schedules. More innovative ideas will need to be implemented to allow (John Wood) to continue to be a bargain for taxpayers as well as students."

Marcolla believes there is no room for error with JWCC finances, especially at this point in time with all of the issues tied to the state-funding woes.

"What happened a few years ago regarding the ‘voluntary resignation' of the president (Thomas Klincar) and the severance package of approximately $175,000 to him seemed to be an incorrect decision," Marcolla said. "I still do not know what happened, and as a taxpayer that disappoints me."

Marcolla says he is uncertain what kind, if any, additional cuts are needed until he has more information.

"I just want to make sure the right board is in place to make decisions that will affect so many lives -- students, staff and taxpayers," Marcolla said.

The JWCC board consists of seven trustees elected at-large from Illinois Community College District 539, which includes all of Adams, Brown and Pike counties, and portions of Hancock, Calhoun, Schuyler, Morgan, Scott and Cass counties.