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Libertarian Chris Jenner wins college board election in Illinois, hopes to slash millions in spending

Chris Jenner
Chris Jenner,
McHenry County
College Board

The McHenry County College Board in Illinois has a new Libertarian member who's ready to rein in wasteful spending. Chris Jenner, of Cary, Ill., came in second out of nine candidates, with the top three candidates winning seats on the board. Jenner netted 9,919 votes, or 15 percent, according to the Northwest Herald.

Jenner has been involved with the Illinois LP for more than a decade, and recently concluded his second term on the Cary Grade School Board, where he successfully passed several policies of fiscal restraint that are uncommon in school districts. He hopes to bring that same discipline to the McHenry County College Board.

The college is currently planning a $640 million expansion over several years, including the forthcoming addition of a $42 million health sciences facility and fitness center.

"I guarantee you the community college doesn't need a fitness center," Jenner said. "They don't need any new building. They're not using half of the space that they have now, and they certainly don't need to do any construction."

According to Jenner, the school plans to fund the expansion with an 8 percent tuition hike and a type of bond financing that he called "insidious."

"You get somebody to come in, and the person that comes in doesn't even have to have qualifications, but they say, 'Oh yeah, this project's feasible; the revenue will be there,'" Jenner said. "And then they can issue the bonds without any voter approval. It doesn't go to the voters, they just take on the debt."

Jenner's work crafting policy for the Cary Grade School Board gives him the experience necessary to help rein in wasteful spending at the college level.

"I wrote a policy that said we will never incur debt or restructure our debt to extend the life of bonds, or to increase the overall cost, without going to the voters," Jenner said. "We put another policy in that said if a vendor contributes to a referendum campaign or to a board member's campaign, the district will not do business with that vendor for at least two years."

Jenner pointed out that crony capitalism is common in Illinois school districts, and cited a recent example of one campaign contributor in another district who soon thereafter received a valuable sweetheart construction deal. "This is another one of these shenanigans that goes on up here," Jenner said. He also plans to introduce new transparency policies that exceed legal reporting requirements, another successful initiative from his prior school board experience.

Eliminating millions of dollars in unnecessary planned spending is an ambitious goal, but Jenner hopes to go even further than cutting back on current spending proposals.

"If we have money we don't need, give it back to the taxpayers," Jenner said. "You know, right now they're sitting on a $19 million surplus, and I'm not sure that it really needs to be that much."

Jenner credited several local activists with crucial help in winning his campaign.

"We had a lot of help from some Libertarian people out here, namely the Fox Valley Libertarian Party," Jenner said. "The LP out in this area was big in helping us get the vote out and getting elected."