Regents to talk budgets, tech profits at meeting

Elizabeth Cook

The University’s Board of Regents will talk business Thursday and Friday at its monthly meeting, held this month on the Crookston campus.

Although the schedule is lighter than usual, regents will review purchasing policies, ways to profit from University technology, the University budget and goals for the class of 2010.

Purchasing policies

The Finance and Operations Committee will recommend increasing bid thresholds in three categories.

If the policy goes through in December, the goods and standards services mandatory approval threshold would increase to $50,000 from $10,000, which means bids below that amount would not go before the regents for approval.

Construction purchase thresholds would increase from $10,000 to $100,000, excluding architects and engineers. Those limits would double from $50,000 to $100,000.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the changes would make administrative tasks easier and more in-line with University President Bob Bruininks’ strategic positioning design.

“One of his desires is to be more efficient and effective on the administrative side,” he said.

Also, increasing these limits will raise the University to the same standards as surrounding cities, Pfutzenreuter said.

“We were behind the times,” he said.

Regent Steven Hunter, a Finance and Operations Committee member, said he’s not concerned with the risk of under-the-table business.

The new thresholds will not apply to stadium work, Hunter said.

“Those (purchases) will all still be above the limits and need to be bids,” he said.

Tech commercialization

Regent Dallas Bohnsack said the board will discuss new ways to profit from University innovations.

“It’s all about focusing on doing a better job of bringing important information and knowledge and get it to the business world as quickly as possible,” he said.

The University would benefit by fulfilling its academic mission and creating new revenue streams, he said.

Regents would like to pursue deals similar to the July transaction with Macular Regeneration, Inc., a start-up that will fight macular degeneration with University technology.

Class of 2010

Regents will take a look at a profile and graduation rate goals for the class of 2010.

“I can tell you right now,” Bohnsack said, “every year we have a better-prepared freshman class.”

Incoming first-year students’ rankings and average ACT scores continue to improve, he said.

To become one of the top three research schools in the world, Bohnsack said, “you recruit, educate, challenge and, ultimately, graduate outstanding students.”

Underwriter

New York-based finance company Lehman Brothers is up for regents’ approval as underwriter for the state-supported stadium bonds.

The firm would market about $137 million in bonds to investors. The company’s take would be $545,000.

University spokesman Daniel Wolter called the topic “controversial.” Some expressed concern about the contract winner, saying the University should retain local services.

Wolter said the University chose Lehman Brothers because the company and the University share the same vision of how decisions would affect the University’s credit rating.

Budgeting

Regents will also review Bruininks’ 2007-2009 biennial budget proposal.

The proposal will include an estimated tuition increase, highlight savings and investment and declare the level of state funding the University will need.