By Matthew Liedke
NDSCS officials are confident the ND Senate will produce a better funding bill than the devastating bill from House
North Dakota State College of Science could be facing potential cuts in funding due to a bill moving through the state House of Representatives. School officials are remaining hopeful, though, that something different will come out of the Senate.
The legislation in question is House Bill 1003, which includes a section that would alter the state’s funding formula away from being based on a college’s credits.
The legislation from the House, according to NDSCS President Dr. John Richman, was significantly different than what Gov. Jack Dalrymple recommended in his budget. The reason for the difference, Richman said, was likely because of the governor working off a different revenue projection than the House did.
Richman explained that the session in Bismarck is still in its early phases and nothing is set in stone yet.
“We’re in the midst of the legislative session and nothing has been finalized,” Richman said. “We just got out of the House, so now it goes over to the Senate.
“We will actually go out to testify on March 23 to the Senate Appropriations Committee,” Richman continued. “Following that, the committee will produce its own version of the bill which will go to the Senate floor.”
Toward the end of April, the Senate is expected to release its version and Richman said he anticipates it will look different than the House version.
“That will put it in the third phase of the legislative process, in which a conference committee will find an agreement out of the two versions that will be voted on in both chambers,” Richman said.
If the final bill to come out of the legislature this spring were to look similar to the House version, though, it could have a profound effect on NDSCS.
“Based upon our current budget and our current planning, the House version would require us to eliminate 8-12 positions,” Richman said. “We’re not excited about that by any stretch of the imagination, it’s not a position you want to find yourself in.
“We feel that we are appropriately staffed. Based on our increased credits and we’ve also made some investments to attract and retain more students and we already see results,” Richman continued. “The funding model would have paid for those investments had the House not altered the formula.”
Additionally, a bill like the one produced by the House would remove all capital projects for NDSCS. The projects presented included one in Wahpeton for construction work on the school’s water and sewer system at the cost of $13.298 million and a sum of $5 million that the governor had set aside to improve workforce training in Cass County.
Despite what is included in the House bill, college officials are still looking for different results from the Senate.
“We’re optimistic that the Senate version will be an improvement, we’re optimistic that the legislators statewide understand our mission and what we bring to the state,” Richman said. “The Senate will be working off of another revenue projection which releases on March 18, and the Legislature is very anxiously awaiting that projection as it will drive the number of decisions on state funding.”
For now, it is a waiting game for college officials.
“North Dakota’s socio-economic status is at a tipping point. There isn’t likely a more critical time in the state’s history in which we have needed to invest in bringing in and training more people for North Dakota to abstain and improve that status,” Richman added. “Without a workforce, North Dakota cannot improve, and our mission is to educate and train the workforce of the state.”
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