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DSU Heritage Foundation approves memorandum with university

The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation approved a memorandum of understanding drawn between itself and the university at its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.

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(From left to right) Ty Orton, executive director of the DSU Heritage Foundation, Jace Schillinger, athletic fundraiser and Tom Arnold, Heritage Foundation Board President, discuss the memorandum of understanding between the foundation and the university at the board’s regular meeting Wednesday afternoon. (Press Photo by Andrew Haffner)

The Dickinson State University Heritage Foundation approved a memorandum of understanding drawn between itself and the university at its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Former state senator and Heritage Foundation Secretary-Treasurer George Nodland described the agreement on the memorandum as a “big deal” after board members approved it unanimously. The biggest single aspect of the memorandum, Nodland said, was a stipulation granting the Heritage Foundation an annual payment of $400,000 from DSU to cover administrative costs until the foundation can cover its own expenses.

In return, the foundation remains solidly under the jurisdiction of DSU and the sitting university president, who will have final approval on decision-making.

Nodland said the small percentage of donations kept by the Heritage Foundation to fund itself necessitated some early help from the university and the agreement to remain under DSU’s watch was the “big difference” between the new foundation and the old foundation, which was simply named the Dickinson State University Foundation. That old foundation is currently undergoing court-ordered dissolution.

“The old foundation was by itself so there was a loss of communication,” Nodland said, “but we’re all in this together.”

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The memorandum awaits signature by DSU President Tom Mitzel, which the board predicted would happen sometime this week or next.

Former DSU Foundation facility under appraisal

As it grows, the Heritage Foundation is looking to eventually change its offices and has its sights set on the former DSU Foundation facility on the edge of the DSU campus. Appraisal of that property should be finalized by the end of this week, after which it could be purchased by the university, which has the right to first consideration.

Heritage Foundation Executive Director Ty Orton said the university has until April 21 to determine which items it will purchase.

The appraised value of the property could come in at $1 million, though Orton warned it “might not even matter” as the old foundation’s creditors must agree on the price.

“If one says no, the house doesn’t sell,” he said, adding that he believed it was possible one of the parties suing the foundation would deny the appraisal.

As of the Wednesday meeting, the Heritage Foundation board members were unsure what would happen in the event of creditor denial.

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“The problem is this is all uncharted territory,” said Heritage Foundation Board President Tom Arnold. “We’ve never done this before -- nobody has.”

‘Very deliberate accounting’

As it receives donations, the Heritage Foundation will use seven different bank accounts to ensure the separation of donated funds into appropriate categories.

Arnold said monetary gifts are earmarked by donors for academic or athletic purposes. Within both of those categories are three accounts -- permanently restricted, temporarily restricted and unrestricted -- that essentially reflect the level of specificity of the donors’ wishes for their gift.

The seventh account lies outside the academic or athletic sets and is, as described by Orton, a “just in case” account reserved for gaming to be used in the event the Heritage Foundation conducts a raffle or similar event.

The old foundation was sent to dissolution partly due to concerns it was not honoring donor stipulated restrictions on donations and was using restricted funds to cover operating costs.

Arnold said the new foundation is conducting a “very deliberate accounting for transparency and for ease of audit.”

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“We’re making sure everything’s exactly where it needs to be,” he said.

Orton added the Heritage Foundation is taking a monthly statement of its accounts to ensure continuity in its records and to hold donor intent “where it needs to be.”

“This is a safeguard on our end and it’s a starting point for us to make sure audits are straightforward and accounting is easily done,” he said.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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