Board reviews budget outlook

December 15, 2016

State Board of Higher Education updated on fee guidelines, budget impact


Among the many discussions by the State Board of Higher Education’s meeting this week were details on how a proposed 10-percent reduction in budget would affect the North Dakota University System’s 11 colleges and universities.

Before hearing the potential impacts, SBHE Chair Kathleen Neset kicked off the meeting by congratulating all the students throughout the system who would be celebrating at graduation this week. Neset also noted that she was looking forward to working with legislators during the upcoming session. She stated that working as a team, and working collaboratively with other agencies and legislators, would be in the absolute best interest of the students.

Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan spoke on the governor’s 2017-19 budget recommendations. She provided past biennium numbers for reference on operational costs, noting that 313 full-time equivalent positions had already been terminated throughout the system because of prior budget cuts. The recent recommendation calling for a further 10 percent reduction would result in up to 192 more positions likely being impacted. Dolan noted that the campuses and system office would need to decide how and where those impacts would be felt by the end of the legislative session. She added that budget hearings were scheduled for mid-January, with an overview occurring before testimony from the campuses over three days.

During the meeting, Dolan also brought forward Room, Board and Fee guidelines. She said that these were typically set by presidents with limitations by the legislature. Any changes in the rates recommended by the presidents would be factored into the rate set by the Board. Dolan said if the total increase were more than 1 percent at any campus, then statutorily they would require formal Board approval. The guidelines were approved with the caveat that the Board would get another report in February.

Board member Mike Ness led discussion on the creation of a Board Governance Committee.

Ness said so far, a working group has existed in an ad hoc fashion, although, the Higher Learning Commission recommended more formal governance discussion take place on a regular basis. The committee will look at evaluations and other topics, and be the fourth committee under the board, joining academic and student affairs, budget and finance, and audit. The Board unanimously approved the motion to create the committee, which would include Ness, Nick Hacker and Dr. Kevin Melicher.

Director of Facility Planning Rick Tonder spoke on financing of a proposed $22.5 million activated carbon plant at Valley City State University. He said the plant could be financed through revenue bonds or other public financing for construction of the plant, integrating activated carbon production with campus district heating. Tonder stated those involved with the plan were looking for ways to further revenue and retire debt. He noted that the request had to be made to the legislature in the coming months in order to fund it.

Once everything is in place and if everything lines up as it should, we will return to the board to discuss details of agreements with potential vendors going forward. The program had originated from the Center for Excellence.

The plant would be set up in a way to capture the carbon created during the process, to be sold.

Hacker noted that there is a growing demand for activated carbon, and that while markets could change, this project was solvent and met a market need in an entrepreneurial way.

Chief of Staff Lisa Feldner updated the Board on how the system office would track information and legislative requests through the NDUS intranet and content management system. She stated that training could be available if needed through a webinar option.

Johnson brought forward a request for new programs, specifically a new certificate in entrepreneurship from Minot State University, and a new minor in creative writing from North Dakota State University. Both were approved. She also brought forward four organizational changes recommended by the University of North Dakota, including changing the Division of Sports Medicine to the Department of Sports Medicine, move the certificate and minor in Non-profit Leadership from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Business and Public Administration, and change the communication program to the Department of Communication. The fourth recommendation, to move and rename the B.A. in Geology from College of Arts and Sciences to a B.S. in Earth Sciences at the College of Engineering and Mines, was deferred to the January meeting pending more information.

CIO Darin King reported on the Functional IT Consolidation. King said that CTS had worked in the past 12 months to drive cost savings and technical efficiencies.

Johnson spoke to the Board on faculty commendation awards, five of which were being given for creative use of technology in classrooms.

The Board held the first reading of policy 402.9 (admission policies – new international students), 410.0 (responsible conduct of research), and 407.0 (reverse transfer). A second reading was held on policy 608.2 (NDUS employees – non-renewal and dismissals).

The next Board meeting is scheduled to take place Jan. 26.