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North Dakota higher-ed board approves NDSU money for president's house

FARGO -- North Dakota State University received permission Thursday to spend just under $200,000 in university funds on its president's house.

Members of the state Board of Higher Education voted unanimously during a meeting at Minot State University to modify their previous action, which required private dollars to cover the entire cost of the house.

Since the last time the board met, the NDSU Development Foundation indicated it would not pay additional dollars toward the house project.

Next the project, as well as the University of North Dakota's president's house, will go before the Legislature's Budget Section on Dec. 1.

Both projects exceeded the $900,000 budget authorized by the board and the Legislature.

The NDSU president's house cost $2.07 million, a total that increased Thursday from the previously reported $2.04 million. John Adams, vice president for finance and administration, said additional bills came in that added to the cost.

The board said NDSU may spend about $196,000 in institutional money on the house that the foundation has refused to pay.

The money will not come from taxpayer funds or tuition dollars. It comes from interest income, auxiliary revenues and Coke and Pepsi commissions.

Board Vice President Jon Backes, who voted "regretfully yes" to using NDSU dollars for the house, said it was the only practical option since the money has already been spent.

The alternative would be for NDSU and the foundation to resolve the matter through litigation, but that would be more costly and time-consuming, Backes said.

The foundation maintains that NDSU said it would be responsible for exterior costs of the home, and the foundation already committed to pay $373,855 of those costs.

Jon Jackson, the board's faculty adviser, said the NDSU money going into the home could have been spent on research projects or other efforts that benefit students.

"Wow, that's money we could have put to good use and brought a bigger bang that buying shingles or sealant for the concrete," said Jackson, a UND assistant professor.

The UND house, which cost nearly $1.2 million, initially included about $260,000 in university money. Chancellor Bill Goetz said the university foundation intends to cover that amount with private donations.

The board also retroactively approved about $3.5 million in additional spending for NDSU's Richard H. Barry Hall. NDSU was authorized to spend $20 million on the project, but officials did not include the cost of furniture and the cost to acquire the property in the total.

The project funding came more than $12 million in donations, $968,000 from NDSU's general fund and nearly $10.5 million that NDSU will repay the foundation through a long-term lease.

Barry Hall also will go before the Budget Section for approval.

The board also retroactively gave NDSU permission to spend about $800,000 on projects in Old Main, which includes about $414,000 to remodel the president's office.