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Dismal ND revenue report delays action on college presidents' pay

WASHBURN, N.D. - State Board of Higher Education members postponed action Friday on contracts and raises for campus presidents to give themselves more time to digest a dismal report on the state's tax revenues and budget situation and to work on ...

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WASHBURN, N.D. - State Board of Higher Education members postponed action Friday on contracts and raises for campus presidents to give themselves more time to digest a dismal report on the state's tax revenues and budget situation and to work on a new policy for evaluating presidents.

Board members were scheduled to go behind closed doors to discuss the reappointment and possible new contract terms for seven presidents - including North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani - and then to return to open session to act on the contracts as well as salaries for all presidents and vice chancellors.

But board President Kathleen Neset of Tioga moved to pull those items from the agenda at the start of the meeting at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, saying they needed more work.

She later explained that based on Thursday's report showing state tax revenues missed the forecast by $36.4 million in May - increasing the likelihood of additional budget cuts for state agencies - they needed more time to "ensure the budget reflects the strategic direction" of the board.

Part of the board's direction is to have members more involved in evaluations of campus presidents, and to have those evaluations "tiered" at different times of year instead of all coming due on June 30, Neset said during a break in the meeting.

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"I want to get this right," she said.

The board plans to discuss the issues during a teleconference tentatively slated for Thursday.

Board member Kevin Melicher of Fargo said the presidents who attended Friday's meeting - Bresciani among them - deserved to have the board discuss their contracts in person as listed on the agenda, calling it "an issue that concerns all of us." But his motion to restore that agenda item died for lack of a second.

Of the seven campus presidents, all have declined salary raises for the fiscal year that begins July 1 - except Bresciani, who said during a meeting in April that he doesn't determine his salary, so it would be up to the board to decide whether he gets a raise. His current salary is $354,568.

Bresciani has clashed several times with Chancellor Mark Hagerott during the past year, including a fuss over Bresciani's business-class flight to India and his enrollment goal of 18,000 students. In a column earlier this month, retired newspaper publisher and former state lawmaker John Andrist called for Bresciani's ouster, writing that he "has essentially thumbed his nose" at Hagerott.

On Thursday, Bresciani emailed NDSU employees announcing an early retirement program for eligible staff and faculty as part of an effort to meet the 10 percent cut that Gov. Jack Dalrymple has requested in 2017-19 budget proposals.

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