Lawmakers want clarity in university system spendingA Fargo lawmaker hopes to provide more clarity to funding within the North Dakota University System.
By: TJ Jerke, Forum Communications
BISMARCK — A Fargo lawmaker hopes to provide more clarity to funding within the North Dakota University System.
Rep. Joe Heilman, R-Fargo, said questions popped up during the 2012 Interim Education Committee after the university system hired a new internal auditor and compliance officer and passed on the cost for both to all 11 state universities. The University of North Dakota contributed $120,000 and North Dakota State University added $104,000 with the other campuses contributing a total $73,397.
“I don’t know how much may be there or the number of resources it takes to manage the system,” Nathe said. “I just want to provide a sense of clarity to legislators and public as to where the money is.”
Heilman proposed House Bill 1281, which had its first hearing in front of the House Education Committee Wednesday. The bill would not allow the State Board of Higher Education to use funds designated for any of the 11 institutions to support the university system office by hiring or paying personnel under the board’s authority.
The system’s Challencelor Hamid A. Shirvani provided a memo to the state about the new employees in August. In it, Shirvani said he exhausted his options as he “took several steps to make difficult internal decisions and reallocations within the office.”
“However, there is a limit to my ability to do so within the limited System Office budget,” he wrote.
Shirvani reiterated those sentiments Wednesday morning when he told the committee the “current process is too restrictive and unable to do the job the legislature asks of it.”
The State Board of Higher Education provides a recommendation of how much it may need for the upcoming biennium, with the lawmaking body in control of how much the system receives.
Shirvani has asked for the equivalent of 30 additional full-time positions from the legislature for the coming biennium. Gov. Jack Dalrymple only allocated funding for seven in his proposed budget.
“If it’s only seven, we have to still assess campuses, it’s not enough,” Shirvani said.
Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, asked Shirvani why he didn’t go to the legislature first for the two additional positions last year, wondering if the chancellor was trying to go around the appropriations process.
Shirvani said the university system did.
Nathe asked Shirvani if he had a goal to have the legislature give the university system a general fund and allow the system to allocate the money to the campuses.
“I’m here to first prove myself and show the services I can provide,” Shirvani said, stating the idea may be a long-term goal.
“I don’t have a system, I’m building it. I have a directive from the board to build a system and take it to the next level,” Shirvani said. “Once you feel everything is better, that’s when I’m going to come and ask for a little more.”