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UND areas submit drafts for budget cuts

The leaders of UND's colleges and support units have finalized and submitted draft plans to cut their budgets by 12 percent in expectation of widespread reductions to state-funded entities.

As an institution, UND is currently anticipating an appropriated fund reduction of $32 million over the upcoming 2017-19 biennium. The North Dakota University System as a whole is currently anticipating an appropriated fund reduction of about 20 percent from its level at the onset of the 2015-17 budgetary period.

Appropriated budget cuts to higher education and other state programs are a product of a lagging performance in the state's economic commodities—primarily oil—and subsequent expectations of reductions to state revenues. The North Dakota Senate passed a higher education budget in mid-February with $616.4 million in general fund spending.

Beyond the outright cut to UND's state-provided funds, approximately $7 million is marked for reallocation over the next year. Of that sum, $3 million would be directed to marketing initiatives to boost student enrollment, another $3 million would likely be invested in infrastructural additions to make way for NexusND, a statewide research network proposed by NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

The purpose of the remaining $1 million is still being determined, but the money would likely be used to advance forward-looking objectives identified by the UND Strategic Planning Committee.

Though the March 6 deadline to submit plans to the UND Executive Council was publicly announced in mid-February, the campus leaders have been drafting their reduction proposals through the winter. The original series of plans for cuts were written toward a tiered level of reductions pegged at 4, 8 and 12 percent. Those plans were initially submitted to the executive council on Feb. 3 with the expectation of target reductions being returned a week later.

On Feb. 11, a news release stated the council had returned the plans to leaders of academic colleges and support units for further editing to include structural cuts of greater permanence and an emphasis on working toward the university's wider strategic planning objectives.

About a week later, the council announced each of the colleges and support units had been directed to cut their appropriated budgets by 12 percent.

The UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, which receives its appropriation separately from the rest of the university, was directed to find space for a 10 percent cut. UND Athletics was directed to cut $1.3 million.

Earlier this year, UND announced employee buyout programs to encourage voluntary separations from the university to reduce staffing costs and decrease the number of any future involuntary workforce reductions. A total of 119 faculty and staff members requested buyouts by the end of the application period. Those applications will be approved or denied by mid-May, though three top executives have already been cleared to resign their posts either this summer or at the end of a two-year phased retirement plan.

UND Athletics has been granted an extension to early April to submit plans to meet its portion of the reductions. University spokesman Peter Johnson—one of the three executives approved for a buyout and summer resignation— said Friday he was unaware of any plans to change the submission date for the other campus areas.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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