McHenry County College's former board president flees Illinois, offers advice to successor
McHenry County College Board President Chris Jenner, who has held that post since 2013, has stepped down and is fleeing Illinois because of the state's poor financial condition that is only getting worse, he said during a recent interview.
"Education is incredibly important, a need on the same level as food, clothing and shelter" Jenner, also a Republican precinct committeeman in Cary, told the McHenry Times. "The state pension problem is important enough to uproot me from my formerly beloved home of 60 years. MCC is in good shape."
Jenner referred to "the increasing generosity of government employee pensions" into which the state has had to pay more and more into its pension system and said it's not difficult to figure out why. "Because so much money is going into the pension systems, the state funds school districts less and less," he said.
"Teacher unions demand raises every year and school boards grant them," he said. "To make up for the loss in money from the state, the easiest recourse is for school districts to raise property taxes. That's why property taxes in Illinois have become so outrageous. I saw this coming and was mad about it 15 years ago. I'm glad people are starting to realize our property taxes are too high, but disappointed it took them this long to figure it out."
Jenner, who was on the road to Florida earlier this week, has said that he and his wife of almost 27 years, Laurie, are moving to Sunshine State. During his McHenry Times interview, Jenner said moving out of McHenry County "renders me ineligible to serve as a McHenry County College trustee."
Jenner also said he expected to "enjoy warm weather, lower taxes, live music and maybe some recreational part-time work," in his new home.
A rare Libertarian elected official in Illinois, Jenner has been MCC board president since 2013, having previously been elected to two terms to the Cary Consolidated School District 26 board. During his time in office, the McHenry County College Board selected Clinton Gabbard to be the college's eighth president and last December extended his contract to the end of 2020. This past spring, the college broke ground on a $16.8 million science center that is expected to open in the fall of 2018.
Jenner said he is leaving the board as the college is heading in a good direction. "I feel we are now on a good course," he said. "The president is being very proactive and many things are in motion to increase the college's value to the community while keeping our property tax levy at bay."
But the state of Illinois, not so much, Jenner said. "With regards to the state, a government employee pension system that has become overly generous is the root cause of Illinois' death spiral, in my opinion," he said.
"Over the years, pension benefits have gradually – but consistently – increased and because of a clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, those benefits can only be ratcheted up and never down. Retired Illinois government employees – teachers, school administrators, judges, legislators, etc.– put in maybe 15 percent of what they take out. A private sector pension system could never sustain that."
Jenner listed some good wishes for Illinois. "I'd also like to see full-fledged K-12 – or P-20 if you will – school choice and a focus in teaching of subject matter, not philosophical political mush," he said. "In my opinion, the deliberate dumbing down of America has been a rousing success."
Jenner also had some advice for his successor. "Have very thick skin," he said.
"Keep most things as they are. Be mindful of keeping employee association, MCC works with three different unions, and (keeping) administrator contracts affordable. Don't be bullied, don't be afraid to question anything that looks fishy and don't be afraid to vote no," he said.