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UND admins address university's future after legislative session

Administrators at UND talked with nearly 75 faculty members about the results of the legislative session and its implications for the school at a biannual University Council meeting Wednesday.

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Administrators at UND talked with nearly 75 faculty members about the results of the legislative session and its implications for the school at a biannual University Council meeting Wednesday.

President Robert Kelley addressed issues with communication and transparency and said he wanted to have an open dialogue with university employees.

"We've heard you loud and clear," he said. "We've got to find ways to do more in communication and we've got to find a broader variety of ways in which we can communicate together."

Vice President for Finance and Operations Alice Brekke explained how the legislative session, which adjourned in late April, affected the university in a variety of ways but that some consequences are still unclear.

UND saw an 8.5 percent increase in state appropriated dollars to cover salary increases, benefits and operating costs. Student tuition is used to cover the remainder of these expenses, but with lawmakers capping a tuition increase at 2.5 percent, Brekke said there could be a shortfall of almost $5 million.


"But we fully understand the actions taken at the Legislature are the resources we need to work within," she said.

About $3.7 million of the gap could be in tuition revenue and the rest would be in the school's general fund, Brekke said. She also noted enrollment is expected to be "stable" in the coming school year.

Brekke said long- and short-term solutions will be looked at moving forward but that right now the main focus would be on completing the budget .

"We end up with a three-week time period to craft a budget. There is no time to have any reasonable or informed conversations, nor is there the time to do the reality check on the various revenue streams we need to take into consideration, so that's the approach we're taking at this point," she said.

After an audience member inquired, Brekke said the potential financial consequences of paying student athletes what they're calling "full amended grant in aid" is still unknown and the budget model redesign process the university has been working on for years will continue to be transparent and involve the campus community as much as possible.

Building projects

While officials worked to hire a new administrator to oversee Facilities Management last fall, Brekke said work slowed on the future of the old medical school building as the new one is built.

Officials have talked about repurposing the old med school building in a variety of ways, and Brekke said beginning this fall, the campus would see a more robust approach.


There are currently five construction projects on campus, Kelley said, and students should be able to move into the new $124 million School of Medicine and Health Sciences building during the summer of 2016 and throughout the following year.

What will happen with some of the older buildings on campus-the Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center, 314 Cambridge, the Strinden Center and Dakota Hall-is still up in the air as some are currently being used to house displaced offices involved in the current construction, such as the $13.9 million Law School remodeling project.

The school received $4.6 million from the state to expand the Wilson M. Laird Core and Sample Library, $760,000 to replace the roof on the North Dakota Museum of Art and $6 million that will be spent over two years on the first phase of a project at the Grand Forks International Airport to repair infrastructure used by flight students.

The university also has access to $3.5 million in a deferred maintenance pool to repair existing buildings and $4.4 million for extraordinary repairs. UND will have to ask the State Board of Higher Education for the dollars in the case of the extraordinary repairs fund and match every $1 with $2.

"So every dollar we want to spend of state money we have to bring $2 to the table," Brekke said.

"It triples the pool."

UND also has access to $3 million for campus security and safety improvements that University Police Chief Eric Plummer said he planned to pursue with the board, which governs the state's 11 public institutions.

Other business


The higher education funding bill also requires the North Dakota University System to consolidate email, file servers and other technological data, though Brekke said she wasn't sure how that would affect UND yet.

"It's up to us to be at the table and to be focused on solutions within the framework the statute now requires," she said.

Lawmakers also took funding from the university system to pay auditors, and Brekke said she's not sure how that will affect the school either, as the State Auditor's Office can't be both the school's internal and external auditor.

"What we understand will occur is the state auditor will look to employing additional auditors to perform the audits but how this will actually unfold has yet to be seen," she said.

New state legislation also removed the State Board of Higher Education's ability to employ its own attorneys, and effective July 1 that responsibility will move to the Office of the Attorney General. Brekke said it's still unclear whether that will involve hiring new attorneys, finding consultants or using existing staff but that the "attorney general is committed to creating a model that works for us."

Kelley said he wanted to be open and collaborative with faculty in these and other university issues.

"We need to define and produce levels of collaboration primarily in budgetary and fiscal matters," he said. "I can certainly commit myself to providing information. We have lots of avenues to provide information ... but I think this is something we need to do together."


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