Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Verbigeration Until the Cows Come Home?

U of M sells Crookston Cows,

Keeps those in St. Paul

Once again, one wonders about the priorities at out land grant institution, The University of Minnesota...

Casey Selix seems quite willing to put her head in the lion's mouth:

It took me a while to work up to that call. I started out asking News Service Director Dan Wolter whether the U of M has $89 million it doesn’t need until next summer. That’s the amount of aid the state has proposed delaying to the U because of another shortfall in state tax revenue, according to a DFL legislative press release I read Monday.

[To which Mr. Wolter responded verbigeratively:]

"This is certainly not an insignificant amount of money and it has the potential to create significant concerns with regard to our credit rating," Wolter wrote in an email. "However, we don't anticipate having to engage in any short-term borrowing to deal with it. Keep in mind that state appropriation has fallen to about a fourth of our total budget. The biggest concern for the university is how it impacts our liquidity and bond rating, which has the potential to drive up costs in the long-term.

At the end of his email, Wolter noted (with a wee bit of humor): "We've been tied up with cows all day!

A reporter doesn’t read such a statement every day. She may try to connect the dots, however, between a vaunted institution selling off a herd and covering an $89 million delay in state funding.

[Ah, Dan, if my paycheck doesn't come in on time, it creates problems. It does affect my liquidity, and how is this to be handled? Selling cows?]

What the national reports didn’t say is that the U is laying off seven people at the dairy operation at the University of Minnesota Crookston. This move is the biggest reduction of an operation that Greg Cuomo says he has dealt with in his time as associate dean of CFANS.

Selling off one herd won’t cover right away the anticipated shortfall for research and outreach operations. Cuomo anticipates an upcoming auction will bring in about $300,000 from selling the entire herd in Crookston. The bigger savings will come in cutting recurring expenses of running the dairy center. He doesn’t have a precise figure for the savings in staff and operations but estimated "several hundred thousand dollars" a year overall.

So, here’s the math on covering that potential $89 million hole with cows, not that anyone would seriously suggest it as a broader strategy. Based on the $300,000 expected from the auction of 260 animals (bringing in an average of $1,154 each), the U would need 77,123 cows to bridge the gap. Or, it would need to set minimum bids at $342,307 per animal at the upcoming auction.


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