In last week's column, I reported that the NIC Board
of Trustees cut money from their number one strategic
goal, Professional Technical Education. A response
from the NIC Trustee Vice Chair, claimed my facts were
wrong. She later admitted they were accurate but went
on to make excuses for the Board's decision.
My information is correct and has been verified
by multiple people within NIC.
The NIC Board lists Professional Technical Education
(PTE) as their top priority, but they cut money for
its operating budget. This is not the only contradictory
action by the Board. They also cut $150,000 from student
financial aid, a fact confirmed by phone with NIC's
spokesperson, Kent Propst. Additionally, the Board
is raising student tuition by 7.4% next year and raising
student fees as well.
The Board's actions are not in line with the frequent
public plea to keep our community college affordable
for our students.
Affordability is a top public concern, as documented
by the college's Strategic Plan Committee. I
attended the NIC meeting in May when this fact was
presented. Yet in response to this survey information,
the Board increased tuition and fees, cut financial
aid and cut PTE's operating budget.
These actions point to one conclusion, in my opinion:
Students are not the top priority.
The taxpayers are not the top priority either, it
seems. NIC's Board plans to take the maximum tax increase
and pulled foregone taxes into their budget as well,
which will increase the financial burden on all taxpayers
of Kootenai County. This tax increase is not
just for a year or two, it becomes part of their permanent
base, so the increase is forever. The Board is planning
to pay $10 million dollars for the DeArmond Mill site
but will not allow a public vote and has yet to engage
the public in an open dialog to answer unfiltered,
If the students and the taxpayers are not the main
focus of the NIC Board, what is? Well, they increased
the President's salary and benefits to total $179,
250, which includes $1000 per month for housing. The
Board also increased President Bell's expense account
significantly and raised their own Trustee expense
account too. All money left in these accounts
carries over to the "Fund Balance" for the
next year which the Board can use for any purpose. As
a matter of fact, the Fund Balance for this year is
well over a million dollars but they did not use any
of that money for their number one goal, PTE, which
they could have. They cut PTE the budget instead.
Please recall, if you will, the purpose of this
column. I promised to cut through unnecessary
distractions and clear the smoke to discover the essence
of the subjects. The personal attacks and name
calling that have appeared in letters to the Press
and on local blogs are distractions. They are attempts
to divert focus away from the behavior of our public
officials. It's the old political move where,
if you can't answer the questions, attack the messenger. Well,
I'd like to challenge the NIC Trustees to explain the
decisions I've addressed in this column. Please
tell us why you have used our public money in ways
that seem to contradict your goals and our wishes. We
want to understand.
Let's stay on-topic and work toward an honest dialog
which will help our community. The heart of this
matter is the accountability of the NIC Board of Trustees
to the students, the entire college and the taxpayers
of Kootenai County.