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Budget Section delays decision on University System office contingency money

The Legislature’s Budget Section has decided to delay a decision over whether to release contingency funds held back from the North Dakota University System office.

The budget bill for the state’s colleges and universities contained a provision to hold $1 million back from the system office – to allow a new Chancellor to make changes in staffing. It gave the authority to make the decision to the Budget Section.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott outlined those changes – and needs – to the Budget Section. He asked for part of the money now -- $400,000 – and the rest would come later.

"Without the $1 million, it's effectively a 12 to 13 percent cut," said Hagerott. "That's a difficult thing for any state agency to work with. We are tightening our belt. We've let people go. We've moved people into retirement. And we're going to work in some cases doubled-up."

Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) made the motion to delay the decision. Streyle says he thinks higher education is going in the right direction. But he thinks the decision should be on hold until the new budget forecast is complete.

"I'm 100% supportive of what you're trying to do," Streyle told Hagerott. "I just think the timong isn't right."

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) argued for the money.

"Often times, we criticize higher education for being so slow in changing," said Mathern. "Now, all of a sudden, we have a change agent, and a change suggestion. I think we ought to take it up."

The new revenue forecast should be ready by late January.

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