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Friday, January 23, 2009

SD Budget Cuts: Regents Quietly Acquiesce

All those who've been calling on Governor Rounds to include some real cuts in his do-over budget are getting their wish. Of course, for some anti-government fundamentalists, even yesterday's proposals will sound like small potatoes, but this is real practical government, not a Grover Norquist parlor game.

Among the cuts is a five-million-dollar whack out of the Board of Regents' pie. The cuts include these items (from a news release we BoR employees received from Regents exec Tad Perry right after the governor's speech yesterday):
  • Redefine the mission of [i.e., shut down] the South Dakota School for the Deaf to an outreach education and support role, closing the instructional site in Sioux Falls. General fund budget savings of $2 million.
  • Reduce state fund general support for the Cooperative Extension Service. General fund budget savings of $1 million.
  • Eliminate the state match for maintenance and repair funds used to maintain Board of Regents’ buildings. General fund budget savings of $1,632,999.
  • Cut institutional programs or activities across the regents’ system. General fund budget savings of $500,000.
My plum still appears to be in the pie (I hope keeping my assistantship is part of what Perry means when he says "Our commitment as a board was to do no long-term harm to the academic and research functions of our public universities, which are foundational to preparing and supporting South Dakota’s future workforce"), but I'm still watching.

One thing does stand out about the messages I've received this week from the Regents and our president at DSU, Doug Knowlton: Nowhere do their messages signal that we are going to stand and fight these cuts.

Now you know me: I'm always keen to identify situations where the powers that be aren't standing up for what is right. Even in the current budget situation, supporters of education, the arts, the State Fair, and other targeted programs have every right to make the case that the cuts to their favored programs will do more harm than good. The Regents have an obligation to speak up for their employees.

But I'm not so sure that Tad Perry's talk of standing "as a partner with Gov. Rounds and the Legislature" is an abdication of advocacy for the folks who work for them. Maybe the Regents' apparent acquiescence to the cuts as announced is a signal that they've already done their advocacy and have already won. Look again at those cuts. Out of $5 million, only $500K is coming from core university functions. We could cover that by consolidating three university presidentships into one. We're not talking about losing profs or cutting major programs. We're not even mentioning closing a campus.

I'm not prepared to go as far as Mr. Powers and declare that the Regents are getting off scot free. No raises next year isn't exactly painless, but that's still a big step away from no jobs... which is exactly the barrel over which the Regents and the governor know they have every recession-spooked worker.

For now, I'm reading the Regents' acquiescence this way: Tad Perry is going to keep his head down and talk team because he knows it could have been much worse. I'd still like to hear some ruckus for our side, but with the vast majority of Regental employees just happy to have dodged the bullet, no one on the university side is going to take any chances.


  1. Where does DSU stand with getting funding for the newly purchased President's house?

    If the BOR funds that then B>S>, I say. Also, how many scholarships are now lost due the purchase of that house if it is not funded?

  2. The BOR's silence is deafening. They are virtually untouched. There is not a manager, business professor, or economist anywhere within the BOR worth their salt (or pay) if they can't create a 5% savings without impacting classroom delivery.

  3. The president's house purchase is funded with DSU Foundation endowment money. The BOR doesn't fund it at all.

  4. Are these endowment funds also used for scholarships, or is that a separate division or endowment?

  5. I understood or misunderstood that the Endowment fund bought the house but was going to lease it back to the College or BOR for 30 years at like 8k or 10k per year. At the end of the 30 years the endowment would still own the house?

    I am wondering if that is correct, partial correct or simply wrong?

    Any ansight would be helpful thanks.



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