President Potter’s Inconsistency
by Silence Dogood

At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, MnSCU released its budget proposal entitled “Prosperity for All.”

MnSCU’s thirty-seven page budget proposal contains information about the system’s request for $142 million in additional funding.

On Tuesday, January 28, 2015, Gov. Dayton released his initial budget proposal for the funding of higher education in Minnesota for the next biennium. In his proposal, Gov. Dayton stated that he won’t include additional funding for MnSCU in his budget proposals until the parties work out their “differences.” Specifically, the Governor is referring to the dispute between Chancellor Rosenstone and the seven MnSCU universities that have taken votes of no confidence in his leadership.

An article about Gov. Dayton’s budget recommendation that MnSCU not receive any additional funding appeared in the St. Cloud Times on Wednesday, January 28, 2015. When President Potter was questioned about the impact of receiving no additional funding, according to the article,

“He wouldn’t speculate on the impact on St. Cloud State if MnSCU receives no new funding.”

In the thirty-seven page proposal produced by MnSCU, each college/university has its own page. SCSU’s page is reproduced below:

In MnSCU’s Legislative Request, SCSU is asking for $14,825,000 ($10,850,000 for faculty and staff salary and benefits increases plus $3,975,000 for other inflationary and operating costs) in new revenue for the FY2016-FY2017 biennium.

Right below the Legislative Request is a section entitled: “Impact of Legislative Request Shortfall,” which has been enlarged:

Clearly, it states the consequences of not giving MnSCU the additional $142,000,000:

“If the request is not fully funded, one or more of the following will be necessary.”

Unless President Potter wasn’t aware of the content of the page that was included in MnSCU’s budget proposal for the Minnesota Legislature or his memory is failing him or he is not being truthful, all of which are troubling if true, because the four bullet points listed are in fact speculations about what would happen if MnSCU received no additional funding. The four items on the list are pretty specific.

Each MnSCU President was probably instructed by Chancellor Rosenstone to present the worst-case scenario about receiving no additional funding. In my opinion, that was probably not a good decision politically because most legislators do not like to publically be made to feel like they are being held hostage and if not funded there will be dire consequences. However, President Potter or his subordinates did as he was instructed.

What’s worse than memory lapse, disengagement from what a subordinate did or simply not being truthful is that President Potter is prepared to blame the Legislature for not fully funding MnSCU and hence SCSU. He specifically stated this during his convocation address back in January. Unfortunately, regardless of legislative action, cuts are coming to SCSU!

The general fund budget for FY15 presented on October 22, 2014 showed a deficit in the General Fund of $9,542,000. In the most recent budget document presented January 8, 2015, the total operating budget shows a deficit in the Net Operating Income of $7,431,000. These are huge numbers. Even if MnSCU got all of what it is asking for, it would still require significant and painful reductions.

If MnSCU got all the additional money it asked for in their request, the total amount of money in the request for SCSU that is not going to faculty and staff salary and benefit increases is only $3,975,000 over two years. As a result, this will only provide $1,987,500 for each year of the biennium to cover SCSU’s FY15 deficit of at least $7,431,000. Preliminary budget numbers for FY16 show a deficit in the low range of $12,000,000, which is frightening. However, the high range is truly frightening!

Despite all of the information showing that there is a significant financial problem at SCSU, President Potter seems to still be presenting a public face that everything is just fine. The employees at SCSU need to have accurate and complete budget information showing the financial condition of the university. More importantly, SCSU needs leadership that gets the story right. Refusing to speculate on the implications of MnSCU receiving no new additional funding at the same time the MnSCU’s legislative budget request spells out the implications pretty clearly is simply unacceptable. SCSU, perhaps now more than ever, needs leadership if it will ever regain the “flagship” status within MnSCU it so proudly proclaimed in the past.

Leave a Reply