Spend time on transparency

In these fiscal times, an accessible U spending database is needed.

With the Advancing Excellence Steering Committee busy developing recommendations for the University of MinnesotaâÄôs response to a âÄúnew fiscal reality,âÄù and with students bracing for the implications of tuition being the âÄúrevenue stream with the highest potential for long-term growth,âÄù University budgeting has become a controversial issue. Students, faculty, staff and the public all have a stake, and it is essential for trust and healthy progress that each party is involved in the debate. To ensure a fact-based dialogue, the University should develop a user-friendly spending database so stakeholders can see exactly how money is spent. When asked about the merits of such a project, Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said, âÄúPart of the difficulty is that âĦ itâÄôs tough, if youâÄôre not living in this environment every day, to know what that data means.âÄù The complexity of the UniversityâÄôs budget is why an accessible spending database is needed. The Office of Budget and Finance should be commended for the level of budget transparency currently available, but the documents are neither accommodating nor detailed enough for a beneficial public spending debate. President Bob Bruininks said last month, âÄúI think we have an extraordinary obligation to hold down the cost of education and to do everything we possibly can to reduce cost and expenditures. âĦ This debate, that I welcome, should be based on the facts âĦâÄù He is absolutely right; the University should facilitate debate and fiscal consensus by creating a straightforward spending database.