PONTIAC — Heartland Community College’s Pontiac Center is working on more collaboration, particularly in the area of continuing education, trustees were told Tuesday night at a meeting there.

In addition to collaboration with employers and school districts, priorities for the continuing-education program include providing professional learning and ensuring a good return on investments in the program, said Kim Klingbiel, a program coordinator in continuing education.

Klingbiel said the continuing-education program is concentrating on dental assistant, truck driving, Microsoft Office specialist and welding fields.

The dental assistant program should be ready to begin this spring, she said.

“The workforce development piece is an important piece here at the Pontiac Center,” said Klingbiel.

In the area of courses offered for college credit, unduplicated headcount and average class sizes have remained relatively stable at the Pontiac Center, according to a report to the board.

The unduplicated headcount this fall is 147, which is down about 10 percent from fall 2016 but higher than the 140 and 135 in fall 2015 and 2014, respectively.

The average class size for fall and spring classes has ranged from 14 to 17 from fall 2013 to this fall.

Credit hours taken in the 2016-17 school year rebounded from 1,985 in the 2015-16 school year to 2,050.

In other business, the board approved a tax rebate of $40,282 to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. that is part of a settlement agreement reached in 2010 and amended in 2015.

The settlement, which involves 10 taxing bodies, was reached to avoid a challenge to the assessment of State Farm property in the district. It limits how much the company’s taxes can increase each year.

Doug Minter, vice president for business services, said the agreement avoids the risk of a challenge by State Farm to its property assessment, which could result in the loss of even more money.

Board member Becky Ropp said she didn’t mind this particular agreement because “it creates a certainty for State Farm and a certainty for us.”

However, the State Farm agreement sparked some conversation about the unrelated issue of providing tax abatements as incentives to attract economic development.

Ropp said she is “getting less comfortable” with those kinds of abatements without assurances of specific job gains or other measurable benefits.

No such proposals are currently facing Heartland, but Ropp said if such a proposal comes up in the future, she wants to have more discussion before moving forward.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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