NDSU to offer early retirement buyouts to cope with budget woes
FARGO -- North Dakota State University is seeking employee buyouts, a move to reduce the school's budget to cope with the state's sagging tax revenue.
FARGO -- North Dakota State University is seeking employee buyouts, a move to reduce the school’s budget to cope with the state’s sagging tax revenue.
In an email to NDSU employees Thursday, June 16, President Dean Bresciani announced an early retirement program for staff and faculty who have been at the school long enough, an offer aimed at helping NDSU, one of Fargo-Moorhead’s largest employers, meet the 10 percent budget cuts in its next two-year budget beginning next summer.
A school work group is also proposing cutting pay and eliminating a college to help keep NDSU’s budget down.
NDSU and other state universities and colleges joined most state agencies earlier this year in reducing current budgets by a little more than 4 percent due to the drop in state revenue caused by slumping agriculture and oil prices.
That one-time cut of about $6.4 million at NDSU was accomplished largely by delaying a major research initiative and leaving many positions open, about 95 as of June 6, according to a recent memo from the office of Bruce Bollinger, NDSU’s vice president for finance and administration.
State Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, who sits on the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said Thursday the 4 percent cut wasn’t enough.
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“When you have to cut back 10 percent, you have to look harder than when you’re cutting 4 percent,” he said. “There’s some fat to be cut.”
Gov. Jack Dalrymple earlier this year directed North Dakota University System schools to cut their budgets by at least 10 percent for the coming biennium due to declining oil revenues. A 10 percent cut to NDSU’s allocation means a $15,741,054 cut, said spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph in an email.
A budget work group charged with finding ways to reduce NDSU’s budget recently recommended trimming administrative payroll and cutting salaries of former administrators. School leaders, such as provosts, often keep their higher salaries when they return to regular professor duties. Rudolph said in the email that potential cuts to administrative positions will be identified before the work group determines how much money it would save.
A preliminary state Higher Education Committee report shows that NDSU has 105 administrative positions. Seventy-eight of those jobs’ salaries haven’t been calculated.
For every 74 NDSU students, there’s one academic administrative position, which includes provosts and deans, the report said. The state’s other research institution, the University of North Dakota has 33 students for every academic administrator. Streyle said what qualifies as an administrative position still needs to be determined, so the numbers could change depending on future studies.
The mean salary for university system presidents in 2015 was $237,967. Bresciani currently makes $354,568.
UND has slashed staff numbers and cut programs, steps NDSU didn’t take. NDSU’s buyout offer is its first attempt to reduce existing payroll in response to mounting budget pressure.
The school began accepting applications for early retirement buyouts Thursday. Eligible employees need to meet the rule of 70, where the sum of the employee’s age and the total years of benefited employment at NDSU or in the university system equals at least 70.
Academic staff members who take a buyout will receive a year’s worth of pay, and other employees will receive one week of pay for each year they’ve worked at NDSU.
Concordia College also accepted early retirement buyouts this year due to a tight budget.
NDSU’s budget work group also recommended hiring fewer part-time academics and adjunct professors, working to boost programs that increase enrollment, and closing programs and centers as a last resort, a study the group published last week stated.
The group also recommended adding a January term and expanding summer enrollment to attract more students.
Absorbing the degree program offered by the College of University Studies into other departments was also recommended. Sharing services such as human resources and information technology was also discussed.
“Our early anticipation of a potential budgetary challenge for the state, the framework provided by the Strategic Plan, and the work of the study group over the past few months, provided for an inclusive and thorough outcome,” Bresciani said in the email. “The group recommended that smaller work groups be organized to further develop various items, and I have agreed.”
NDSU needs to submit its budget for the 2017-19 biennium to the university system office by Aug. 22, Rudolph said in the email. The deadline for buyouts is Sep. 15.
When asked about the later application deadline, Rudolph said, “We will provide a budget that meets the designated reduction guidelines, and will be allowed to make detailed modifications throughout the process.”
Reduction guidelines allow each campus to submit only two capital project requests, fewer than in recent years.
Bresciani said in his email NDSU’s employees that there could be another one-time state-mandated budget cut later this year.
“Most of these universities have too much overhead,” Streyle said. “They’re a little top heavy.”