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Budget cut continues: DSU could see 25 percent reduction to state appropriations

Dickinson State University could face up to a 25 percent reduction from its current level of state funding in the upcoming two-year budgetary period.

Dickinson State University Tom Mitzel addresses faculty and staff at an open forum held Thursday on the university campus. In his opening remarks, Mitzel spoke about a possible 25 percent cut to DSU’s state appropriations. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)
Dickinson State University Tom Mitzel addresses faculty and staff at an open forum held Thursday on the university campus. In his opening remarks, Mitzel spoke about a possible 25 percent cut to DSU’s state appropriations. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)

Dickinson State University could face up to a 25 percent reduction from its current level of state funding in the upcoming two-year budgetary period.

DSU President Tom Mitzel described the reduction, which would result in an appropriated request of $19.78 million, as "a bit of a scary number" on Thursday in his opening comments to a monthly forum on campus with university faculty and staff.

The budget for the upcoming 2017-19 biennium, he said, is built using the 10 percent statewide budget allotment passed down from Gov. Jack Dalrymple's office earlier this year.

That amount is compounded by funding reductions triggered by student enrollment rates.

Mitzel said the student population side of the funding equation is built on a lagging timetable and draws enrollment levels from the 2011-2013 biennium, at which point DSU's student body was at a "very low point."

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Mitzel said the North Dakota University System is working with the Legislature on behalf of the state's public universities to reinstate a hold harmless clause scheduled to expire in June of 2017. If that clause is upheld, he said, it would stipulate that the universities can't lose more than 4 percent of their state appropriations based on student enrollment.

"I have begun meeting with legislators already advocating with our position," Mitzel said. "DSU is a very strong institution and we got help last biennium. I think they understood we'll need help this biennium."

Mitzel said the university received a one-time allotment from the Legislature in the 2015-17 biennium to address sagging enrollment numbers. If another such allotment is approved along with an extension of the hold harmless clause, the appropriation sum for the next biennium could be increased.

Moving forward, Mitzel said the university is working towards filing its preliminary biennium budget numbers to the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget in August. That early iteration of the budget would identify major items where cuts would occur, but would grant university officials about nine months to figure out the line-by-line reductions.

Mitzel likened the DSU budget to a family budget and said he'd try to have the reduction process "as open as possible" to input from faculty and staff while still "moving it along."

"Somebody has to make the difficult decisions and I understand that falls on my desk in the end," he said. "I'll make the decisions I need to make, but I want to make sure I hear all the stories first and I've been hearing all the ideas."

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