President Mason shared the following information about the Cabinet budget recommendations and the open comment period with faculty and staff on May 1, 2017.
As you are aware, the declining tax revenues in the state forced legislators to reduce spending at all NDUS system universities, including VCSU. The legislature has completed its work, and pending the Governor’s signature, we are now facing an 18 percent reduction for the upcoming biennium.
We have been planning for this in the last couple of months. Cabinet has completed its recommendations to achieve our budget target. The recommendations will be posted in Blackboard in the VCSU Forum by 9 a.m. today.
I do want to let you know that in last-minute legislative negotiations, additional funding was added to our appropriation. This allows us to remove the campus-wide one-day furlough from the recommendations.
The budget reductions required us to recommend the elimination of positions and programs we consider valuable. It is important to emphasize that the positions and programs being recommended are in no way a reflection on the quality of the individual or program contributions to the university. We lament the fact that we are losing valuable colleagues and services.
We are grateful for the contributions of the entire campus community. We also acknowledge the emotional toll and pain this process has had as we aimed for transparency and inclusiveness.
This past week we have had conversations with individuals who are directly impacted by the recommendations, but I understand that all of you will be impacted in some way. The comment period on the recommendations will remain open through the campus meeting on May 8 at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Center lounge.
Should you wish to have a personal conversation, I am available by appointment – drop-in times may also be available. I have dedicated the following blocks of time:
Monday, May 1 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 2 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 3 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday, May 4 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and evening hours by appointment
Friday, May 5 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Monday, May 8 10 a.m. – noon
Thank you for all your contributions, including your patience and understanding, as we move through this very difficult and challenging process. Let us continue to work together to shape this outstanding institution for the benefit of our students.
President Mason shared the following update on the prioritization and recommendation phase of the budget reduction process with faculty, staff and Student Senate leadership on March 23.
On February 24, I sent an email to faculty and staff describing our way forward as we navigate the impending cuts to higher education coming out of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly. As you will recall, our process, as recommended by our shared governance leaders (presidents of the faculty, staff, and student senates), involved the following steps:
• Idea Gathering — February 24-March 27
* Prioritization & Recommendations—March 28-April 28
* Recommendations & Open-Comment—May 1-9
* Decision Rollout May 10-July 1
This coming Monday signals the transition from idea gathering to prioritization. I recognize the transparency we provided has had both an upside and a downside. I also recognize that faith and courage are easier at the beginning and the end of any process—yet most critical and difficult during the middle. Thank you everyone for keeping focused on the truly important work we do every day—and as difficult as it may be—holding strong to our core values and committing ourselves to results, integrity, and positive relations in all we do.
As our idea generation comes to closure, Cabinet is preparing to vet every idea. This is an enormous task as more than 240 ideas have been submitted. Modeling our commitment to making data-informed decisions, Cabinet members are fully committed to researching every idea to the best of our ability and within the time frame. We spent a full day training on our procedure. One thing we noticed is that there are several long-term ideas that will be worthy of further exploration beyond this immediate budget process. Those ideas will also be captured and directed to current planning streams (e.g., the strategic plan, strategic enrollment plan) or may result in focused task forces. The point is that your thoughts and ideas are valued.
Between now and April 28, every idea (similar ideas will be grouped) will be researched utilizing the budget-prioritization principles as follows:
President Mason shared the following update on the budget suggestions list with faculty, staff and Student Senate leadership on March 8.
March 8, 2017
At the request of Student Senate, I’ve asked Cabinet and the shared governance leadership group (the presidents of Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Senate) to change the way the Budget Suggestions List is presented to students.
That change entails a change to our current setup for the Budget Suggestions List on the VCSU Forum site in Blackboard for faculty and staff as well. The list will now be accessed in the Faculty Association and VCSU Staff organizations in Blackboard, with updates to the list appearing in these organizations on Mondays.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we fine-tune our budget process. Please continue to provide feedback on our process as well as your ideas.
President Mason shared the following message on the budget reduction process with faculty, staff and Student Senate leadership on Feb. 24.
Feb. 24, 2017
2017–19 Budget Reduction Process
Earlier in the month, in a Feb. 8 email to faculty and staff, I provided an update on our 2017–19 Budget Reduction Process, indicating that with impending cuts to higher education coming out of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, it would be good for us to begin a budget reduction process at VCSU.
I wrote: “Given the fluctuating budget signals, and noting that we will not know final decisions until April, Cabinet has determined moving forward in alignment with the targets from the appropriation bill once it hits the February 24 crossover date would best serve the campus.”
We now have the North Dakota Senate’s version of the higher education funding appropriation bill that gives us some idea of what the cuts may entail. That bill has now crossed over to the North Dakota House for consideration.
Typically, the House looks at the bill and makes its changes, with a conference committee comprised of members from both the Senate and House working out the details to come up with a bill satisfying both legislative bodies. Often that happens at the metaphorical 11th hour and 59th minute of the session, probably at the end of April this time around. The bill then goes to the Governor for his signature.
The appropriations bill in its current state at crossover calls for roughly an 80 percent budget for the 2017–19 biennium, based on the 2015–17 budget. Higher education institutions in the North Dakota University System had already been asked to submit a 90 percent budget (in our case, a $2.77 million reduction) at the beginning of the legislative session, so now our task at VCSU is to come up with an additional 9.4 percent, or $2.4 million, budget reduction for the biennium.
VCSU is already a lean institution; to achieve this reduction we will need to dig deep and cut programs and positions that we consider valuable. But this is the economic reality we face currently, and I’m asking for your help in gathering ideas for optimizing operations and reducing budgets.
These ideas might include finding streams of revenue from new strategic initiatives, tapping new recruitment markets, increasing our shared services, and developing public-private partnerships. Here our culture of innovation may give us a competitive advantage.
I’ve asked our shared governance leaders—the presidents of Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Senate—to review our previous budget reduction processes (those used to meet the 2015–17 budget allotments and our take on the 90 percent budget) and provide Cabinet with a recommendation for moving forward this time around.
IDEA GATHERING (February 24–March 27)
We are now ready to begin the process that the Senate presidents and Cabinet have put together. The first step involves gathering ideas and suggestions from all members of the campus community. To garner as much feedback as possible, we will use two distinct tracks for aggregating suggestions.
One is by responding to a Qualtrics survey which will be distributed via email on Monday, Feb. 27. The survey provides a way for respondents to share anonymous suggestions. Note that the survey will remain open until March 10.
The other track involves a variety of open means of communication; these are not anonymous. These include direct conversations with any of the Cabinet members or Senate presidents, and/or sharing ideas with them through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Each Cabinet member will also structure formal budget meetings within their areas to solicit saving ideas.
Regardless of which method is used to share your ideas, all suggestions will be posted, without attribution, on the VCSU Forum site under Organizations on Blackboard. The list on Blackboard will be updated on a weekly basis on Mondays through March 27.
We want to generate as many ideas as possible, but let’s remember to be both informative and respectful when making budget suggestions. Try to be specific so your suggestion will be understood clearly, but please talk about areas, programs, and positions, without citing people by name or criticizing individuals.
If you have an estimate of the cost savings to be gained through your suggestion, please provide it. Do remember that the posted suggestions are just that—suggestions, or possibilities; the suggestion list does not constitute a plan of action.
PRIORITIZATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS TIMELINE (March 28–April 28)
Although the Qualtrics survey will close March 10, savings ideas transmitted through other means will continue to be accepted through March 27.
At that point, Cabinet members (less the President) and the Senate presidents will each prioritize the comprehensive list of suggestions by March 31. Cabinet, again without the President, will then work as a group with the prioritized lists to prepare recommendations for the President and Senate presidents the week of April 17.
Personnel directly impacted by the budget recommendations will be notified the week of April 24 as a presentation with final recommendations is prepared to be shared on Blackboard the following week.
We should have a good idea where the final higher education appropriations bill stands by the end of April; Cabinet will allow for adjustments in the recommendations to accommodate any changes in our target budget figures.
I’ve asked Cabinet members to keep the following principles, which we used in dealing with the allotments and the 90 percent budget recommendation, in mind when prioritizing budget recommendations.