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CUTS TO ACCOUNT FOR DIFFICULT REPERCUSSIONS
Even if it receives a 100 percent budget after next year's legislative session, UND will be dramatically changed by a state-mandated budget-cutting exercise described by faculty members and administrators alike as painful.
UND plans to restore only $600,000 of the cuts it made while submitting a 95 percent budget at Gov. Ed Schafer's request last spring.
The remaining $3.9 million would be used for faculty pay increases, enhanced graduate-student stipends, and investment pools for new or existing academic programs that show the potential for growth.
It was clear that what the governor was asking us to do was reallocate our existing dollars, UND President Kendall Baker said. We accepted that challenge and used the results to identify our priorities.
At Schafer's request, colleges and universities submitted 95 percent budgets for the biennium beginning in 1999. Schafer told higher education leaders he wanted them to prioritize their programs and show how they would reinvest funds if they were made available.
Recent public comments by Schafer now suggest he'll recommend that colleges and universities receive budget increases equal to the growth in the state economy.
The $3.9 million reallocation for faculty raises, stipends and funding pools comes from cuts in other UND programs, including 32 instructional and academic support positions across campus. In addition, other staff positions were moved from state-appropriated funds to local funds that received corresponding cuts. Local funds include such revenue as concessions and parking fees, but do not include student tuition or grants.
The process has been extraordinarily painful, Baker said, but he added that it has also led to positive steps.
The pain has been great, and while there will continue to be some pain, I think we are beginning to realize there maybe is also going to be a positive side to the pain in the sense that we will be able to do some things for top priorities for the university that we would not have been able to do without this process, Baker said.
NO FACULTY FIRED
Although no tenure-track faculty members lost their jobs in the cuts and reallocation, some departments are slated to lose vacant positions the university does not intend to fill, a fact that concerns faculty members involved in recommending changes for the reallocation plan.
We were under the understanding that we couldn't give the money back to the programs that we identified, said Mary Kweit, the political science department's chair and University Senate president.
Last year Kweit was a member of the Senate's executive committee, which was one of two committees with faculty and staff representation that made recommendations to UND about cuts and reallocations.
If we had known that we could have recommended giving money back to areas we had targeted, we would have made that recommendation, said Kweit, who expressed concern about eliminating vacant positions targeted in the reallocation plans.
Another committee member, professor of psychology Tom Petros, also said academic positions should all be restored, but noted that UND's final report was exactly what the executive committee recommended for reallocation.
Committee member Lynn Lindholm, a philosophy professor, said restoring funds was not a viable option, considering the governor's directive.
I thought the campus wanted higher salaries for faculty, she said.
But Lindholm also wouldn't endorse the cuts that were made, and she faulted the process, saying the governor didn't give UND enough time and imposed restrictions on what could be cut and then reallocated.
Since no one knows what higher education's real budget will be in the next biennium, the reallocations are not set in stone.
But Baker said UND intends to move forward with its reallocation recommendations even if the university receives a full budget.
What's on the table is what's in this plan, said Alice Brekke, UND's director of budgets and grants, who prepared the 95 percent budget and reallocation plan, which she also described as a difficult process.
At NDSU, which underwent the same budget-cutting process, more funds are expected to be restored to programs cut to meet Schafer's request if universities and colleges receive 100 percent budgets.
UND could still receive a smaller budget for the 1999-2001 biennium. It could also be funded at 105 percent. Either way, top administrators hope the work done in preparing the budgets will show that UND is serious about working with the Legislature.
I don't know if it will strengthen our hand, but it will certainly demonstrate, I hope, to the Legislature that UND is trying as best it can to help in this question and problem that we face of low faculty salaries, said John Ettling, interim vice president of academic affairs and provost.
(It shows) that we're partners in this with the taxpayers, he said, and that we don't want to just show up every two years and whine - that if given an opportunity, we'll attempt to make hard decisions.
More than half of the nearly $4.5 million cut from the budget will be used for faculty salary increases and larger stipends for graduate assistants. This year North Dakota slipped to 50th place nationally in faculty pay among state institutions.
I wanted to make sure we voted more money for faculty raises than for new programs and existing programs, Lindholm said.
A decision on how faculty pay would be increased has not been made. Instead of across-the-board raises, Ettling said, he'd like to see faculty pay increases be determined by merit.
Three fund pools are also set aside in UND's plan. The pools are intended to give the university more flexibility in funding new and existing programs.
The academic program investment pool, the largest at $320,000 a year, would be used to fund new and existing positions permanently. Departments and colleges would apply for funds from the pool. A board set up by UND would have granting power.
Departments that lost positions in the budget reallocation, Ettling said, would be eligible to seek their restoration through this investment pool.
The second pool, $180,000 a year, would fund programs on a one-time basis only.
There hasn't been this kind of flexible money to redistribute before, said Ettling. But understand where this money is coming from: existing colleges and departments. And that process was not without controversy. The decisions to create this pool were not without controversy.
The third and smallest pool, $100,000 a year, would be used for strategic investments at the UND president's discretion.
Ettling said UND hoped that would make the position of president more attractive to candidates for Baker's job. Baker has resigned, effective in June of 1999.
Source: Grand Forks Herald, October 5,