RVC records fourth-straight deficit

n Puri donation may have been used to help offset deficit

Rock Valley College Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Johnson confirmed that the college will run its fourth consecutive year of unprecedented deficit spending. Johnson said the board expects about a $2.5 million shortfall in its operating funds for fiscal year 2003, which ends June 30.

This year’s shortfall brings the total operating deficits for 2000 to 2003 to about $4.3 million. RVC had never run such deficits until RVC President Roland Chapdelaine took the helm beginning in fiscal year 1998.

Johnson cited several reasons for this year’s deficit, including late reporting of financial information to the state and loss of some of its tax base due to business closings.

The state-run Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) severely reprimanded RVC in February for filing late and inaccurate financial information beginning in fiscal year 1999 through this fiscal year. As a result, ICCB downgraded the college’s recognition status (see Feb. 26 article, “State reprimands RVC”). ICCB auditors were on campus last Friday to monitor RVC’s progress in addressing their financial difficulties.

On May 12, the college held a ceremony to honor local developer Sunil Puri and attorney Jim Keeling. RVC officials said the two paid for most of the construction costs associated with a new bike path on the campus. However, funding for the path actually was paid for by taxpayers through the sale of bonds.

When asked about which fund Puri and Keeling’s money was used for, Johnson could not rule out that their donation may have been used to offset the deficit in the operations fund. However, Johnson said the college has about $14-$17 million in reserve that has kept the college afloat. Johnson said he would investigate further.

To date, the college has sold $61 million in bonds to pay for massive construction projects at RVC. None of the bonds has been voter-approved. Insiders said the college may be selling up to $21 million more in bonds by the end of summer if the state does not come through for funding of a planned $32 million arts center. The same sources said Chapdelaine is planning to build dormitories on the campus with an additional price tag of $30 million. If the board approves these bond sales, RVC will have accumlated $114,000 million in debt without referendum.

Insiders also said the summer session was shortened in recent years from eight to seven weeks to make way for two 10-day interim sessions between the spring and summer terms and summer and fall terms. The result, sources said, is increased operating revenue to help offset the increasing deficit at the expense of academic integrity. Sources said it is difficult if not impossible, to cover the necessary course material in the allotted amount of time. The issue is likely to be addressed when the North Central Association, which accredits colleges, assesses RVC this year.

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