The State Board of Higher Education moved forward with unanimous approval to accept the North Dakota University System Office budget for fiscal year 2016.
Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen took the opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about the budget, noting that only 5 percent of the $158.6 million administered by the system office is used for office operations. Approximately 95 percent of the funds are pass-through funding for student financial aid, campuses, federal funding, or set aside specifically for Core Technology Services security, equipment and software.
Vice Chairman Don Morton, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, thanked Skogen for the clarification, adding that every tax dollar carried with it an obligation to spend it wisely. He noted that $250,000 deficit will need to be addressed. Skogen agreed but said it was important to get incoming Chancellor Mark Hagerott input on the budget going forward. Board Member Kevin Melicher said he felt the Board didn’t need to “get down into the weeds about finding $250,000 or $300,000” as he said possible changes under the new Chancellor may take care of that amount.
In addition to handling larger agenda items at its last meeting, the Board heard updates to other topics such as legislative actions, policies, approval of the meeting calendar and more.
Chief of Staff Murray Sagsveen offered a summary of the legislative actions for the Board, including topics across categories of legislative directives to the Board, required reports, legislative mandated studies, NDUS office operations, attorneys, external and internal auditors, students, amendments to the North Dakota Century Code, and contingent appropriations.
During that report, discussion by the Board moved quickly toward the topic of future meetings. Some members expressed ideas on how to move forward with business when meetings resumed in September.
Morton said bringing campus leaders together once per month might not be the best way forward long-term, adding that the time necessary to meet could be best utilized back in the leaders’ respective locations. Morton stated that other options, such as Skype for Business and Office 365, could make for easily accessible meetings in the digital space. Those could allow for regular teleconference or virtual meetings with the Board meeting in a physical location on a quarterly basis.
Faculty Adviser Eric Murphy said a vertically-integrated system like NDUS would be well-served with regular campus visits coinciding with the Board meetings.
Discussion among board members and presidents followed, noting that having on-campus visits could be too time-intensive to add to any regular Board meetings, although they could provide good insight into the character and challenges of any campus. No action was taken to change the nature of the future meetings, although the schedule of meetings for the rest of 2015 was approved.
The Board also reviewed the recommendations made by the Academic and Student Affairs committee, which included existing programs and tracks of study.
Chairman Kathleen Neset spoke next on audit committee recommendations including the project management team that had been put together within the system office in order to work on data inconsistencies.
The Board also held the first reading of HR 8 (worker’s compensation) and Policy 514 (due process requirements), as well as the second reading of Policy 803.1 (purchasing) and Policy 602.3 (job applicant/criminal background check). Other policies that were still under review ranged from the audit committee to foundations to workforce training boards and early retirement.