Theodore Roosevelt is known to have stated: “The government is us; we are the government, you and I.”
The 2017 North Dakota legislative session was my first true interaction with the North Dakota political system. I may easily state that I know my way to the Capitol Building in Bismarck quite well at this point. I remain impressed with the deliberate and dedicated manner with which our legislators seek to understand and meet the needs of the state. It is truly, from my perspective, a unique and positive process.
The road to funding the needs of DSU for the 2017-19 biennium was somewhat wandering and uncertain. We began the 2017 fiscal year knowing DSU faced cuts but unsure as to their extent. In September, I requested that a 19 person task force, comprised of representatives from the faculty, staff and student body, evaluate every aspect of the DSU budget and make recommendations for potential reductions at the 10, 15 and 25 percent levels. The challenge in front of the group was daunting. This task was necessary for our planning, and I believed it was important to share with our legislators the impact of the financial change. The work of this committee will be integrated into planning decisions as we implement the budget for the coming biennium. I thank this group for their thoughtful recommendations.
At one point in the session, DSU faced an approximate 40 percent reduction in its appropriated funding. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the work our local legislators on behalf of DSU. Their understanding of the importance of the university, their hard work, and dedication to western North Dakota is humbling and we owe them our thanks and utmost respect.
The guidance, efforts, and oversight of our local legislators helped ensure that DSU will have the required funding to navigate the 2017-19 biennium while maintaining the momentum it has garnered in the past year and a half. A summary of the total funding that DSU will receive in the 2017-19 biennium:
SB 2003 provides the following items related to Dickinson State University:
– $17,806,843 in base funding;
– $4,309,626 from the general fund for institution operations, of which -$2,309,626 relates to the hold-harmless provision of the higher education funding formula;
– $3,100,000 from the general fund for the final satisfaction of debt associated with the Biesiot Activities Center;
– $950,000 in estimated carry-over authority for the 2013-15 biennium challenge grants to the institution for operations;
HB 1015 includes appropriation of $875,000 from the general fund for DSU operations and $500,000 for the TR Center. The ND Legislature has historically allocated funding for the TR Center biennially through a separate appropriation. The legislature has chosen to fund the TR Center this biennium by providing funds through the OMB bill.
SB 2003 requires the State Treasurer to withhold $2,500,000 from the City of Dickinson hub city oil and gas tax allocation and $375,000 from the Stark County oil and gas production tax allocation. These funds will be placed in the general fund to offset a portion of the general fund distribution made to the institution as part of SB 2003 and HB 1015.
I have spoken much of the strong community of which DSU is a part. We are humbled to acknowledge that $2.5 million of the funds for DSU were received from the Hub City oil fund and an additional $375,000 was received from the Stark County oil and tax allocation. We cannot thank the entities supporting DSU enough, and we will make every decision to use our resources for the purpose of assuring our students the best possible education, and to ensure that our community remains proud of its university.
The legislature had a difficult task before them – they needed to balance the needs of the state with the realities of the budget. While DSU will still be facing operational budget cuts of about 17.3 percent, we will be able to continue to offer all the programs, including nursing that our region and state need for continued growth.
We are already planning for the 2019-21 biennium, and determining how to ensure that DSU has a strong financial footprint, and that we continue to be a good steward to the community that has supported its mission for 100-years. Together we are DSU, and each day I am reminded of just how great is the community surrounding Dickinson State University!!