The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Mike Volna gave a fact-filled and nuanced picture of the U’s finances

Tue, March 28 2023, 11am

At UMRA’s first in-person forum of 2023, held at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville, members of the Retirees Association heard an excellent presentation by Mike Volna, the University associate vice president for finance and assistant chief financial officer. He spoke to us about the University’s FY2024–25 biennial operating budget request (to the Minnesota Legislature), FY2023 state capital request, and MPACT investment request related to the proposed Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services merger. Volna was a last-minute substitute for Vice President and Budget Director Julie Tonneson and provided a fact-filled and nuanced picture of the U’s finances. He was a great pinch hitter!

View the slides from UMRA’s March 2023 Forum with Associate Vice President for Finance and Assistant Chief Financial Officer Mike Volna.  

For context, Volna explained that the U’s budget and resources are about $4 billion annually. Approximately 15 percent ($622 million) comes from legislative appropriations and 25 percent ($1,050 million) from tuition. For many years, the amount of legislative appropriation has declined in relation to the U’s total budget; the income from tuition surpassed the state appropriation more than 10 years ago. This secular decline has caused the U to raise tuition, reallocate funds, and cut costs.

A unique year  

Volna said that based on the forecasts, the latest of which was released in March, this was a unique year because the state announced a large surplus of $17.5 billion. A significant amount of that is a structural increase of about $6 billion, and the remainder is in one-time funds. This large surplus set off a scramble for funding from almost every conceivable quarter.

The University submitted an amended biennial budget request in March which totaled $302.5 for the two-year period. The original request covered:

·      Core mission, $135 million

·      Minnesota Resident Scholarship, $60 million

·      Systemwide Safety and Security, $10 million

The amended request added:

·      American Indian Scholars Program, $9 million

·      Enrollment Driven Tuition Shortfall, $48 million

·      Resident Undergraduate Tuition Freeze, $27 million

Based on information from the legislative targets for higher education that occurred the day before the forum, it seemed possible that the University would receive somewhere around $192 million. This is an 11 percent increase in the appropriation, which is higher than the University has received in many years.

Volna then described the U’s capital request of $371 million, which is usually paid for in state bonds. The request includes money for higher education asset preservation and renewal, and five specific capital projects. (See the slides.)

Finally, he spoke about the University’s health care vision—MPACT 2025—and request for one-time funds to support that vision. The point of the vision is primarily to maintain a world-class academic health system for Minnesotans and University governance and control over University flagship facilities.

To support the maintenance of University control of its health care facilities, and of its faculty, the University has asked for $300 million to reacquire the assets that were transferred to Fairview in the mid 1990s. The transfer required Fairview to assume about $87.5 million in debt and costs; there was no payment by Fairview to the University. The current request also includes $650 million for post-acquisition financial and operational support.

Volna took questions throughout his presentation and, as is his manner, answered comprehensively and factually. Many more answers will come in the next two months from the Legislature. The legislature is required by the Minnesota Constitution to adjourn sine die on the first Monday after the third Saturday in May.

—Bill Donohue, UMRA Program Committee




UMRA welcomes U of M Budget Director Julie Tonneson to March luncheon forum

Tue, March 28 2023, 11am
Julie Tonneson
VP and Budget Director
University of Minnesota

Midland Hills Country Club
2001 Fulham Street
Roseville, Minn. 55113


UMRA is pleased to welcome Julie Tonneson, vice president and budget director for the University, to speak at our March 28 Luncheon Forum about the University’s funding request for the next two years, which President Joan Gabel presented to the Minnesota House of Representatives Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee in early February.

The event will be our first in-person luncheon forum of the new year, and it will be held at a new location for UMRA: Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville.

Tonneson is one of the architects of the University’s biennial funding request, and will talk with us about its goals and its prospects for success. She will also address the University’s strategy and goals for obtaining funds from the state surpluses. This year is particularly important because the total of the structural surplus and one-time surplus was estimated, in November 2022, to be a record $17.6 billion. A new forecast will occur at the end of February or the beginning of March, so we will have current numbers before the forum.

Many see the 2023 legislative session as an opportunity for the state to fund some new initiatives, correct some underfunding, and provide relief to taxpayers. As you might expect, the situation has brought forth many proposals from lots of programs and engendered a good deal of competition.

Tonneson is just the right person to speak on these subjects. She was recruited from the Minnesota Department of Finance, by the late University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter, to manage and enhance the budget process. Luckily for the University, she has been here for more than 25 years and has dealt with virtually every school, college, and administrative unit on the details of their budgets. She is well known as the master of all budget numbers and admired for her calm and cooperative manner in dealing with the tough questions of University finance. Indeed, most regard her as the brains of the fiscal operation. She has made many CFOs look good. As Pfutzenreuter said, “she is pretty damn smart.”

We look forward to hearing from Vice President Tonneson and thank her for bringing her experience and expertise to the UMRA Forum.

—Bill Donohue, UMRA Program Committee member

Upcoming Events

Event Date: February 27, 2024, at 11am

Melissa Hortman, speaker of the Minnesota House and a 1995 graduate cum laude of the U of M Law School, will be the guest speaker for UMRA’s February 27 Forum. She will help us understand the 2024 legislative session and efforts at bipartisan cooperation.

Event Date: March 1, 2024, at 12am

Your UMRA Travel Committee has added a new Road Scholar tour in 2024 for members, "On the Road: Absolute Southwest - A Canyon Lands Adventure." The journey begins on Monday, October 28, 2024 to Friday, November 8, 2024. Register by March 1.

Event Date: March 4, 2024, at 9:30am

The UMRA Hiking Club will explore wildlife along the Mississippi River when it hikes the Pike Island Loop in Fort Snelling State Park on Monday, March 4.

Event Date: March 5, 2024, at 9am

Step aboard Oceania Cruises’ Marina on this UMAA trip and let your wanderlust guide you on an unforgettable 10-night journey through the vibrant heart of South America. 

Event Date: March 6, 2024, at 10am

Explore life above the Arctic Circle with Janet and Craig Swan, and closer to home with Carol Urness when UMRA’s Armchair Traveler program meets via Zoom on Wednesday, March 6.

Event Date: March 12, 2024, at 12:30pm

“Houses of worship” will be the theme when the UMRA Photo Club meets in person at the Hennepin County branch library in St. Anthony on March. Newcomers are welcome.

Event Date: March 15, 2024, at 2pm

Mariah Snyder will lead the discussion of The Other Einstein, an historical novel by bestselling author Marie Benedict, when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 15.

Event Date: March 19, 2024, at 11am

Do you ever wonder whether it’s OK to forget names and nouns but not verbs? During UMRA’s March workshop, neurologist Paul Schanfield, MD, will simplify common neurological conditions related to dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and guide us through identifying symptoms, prevention, treatment, and acceptance. 

Event Date: March 22, 2024, at 2pm

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, a recipient of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and other awards, is the Fourth Friday Book Club’s selection for March. The setting is Appalachia in the early days of the opioid epidemic.

Event Date: March 26, 2024, at 11am

St. Paul-based journalist Fred de Sam Lazaro has reported from 70 countries focusing on the work of change agents to address the consequences of poverty. His remarkable perspective draws us closer to the people he meets and the challenges they confront. Join us to learn why and how he uses storytelling to enhance understanding of today’s pressing global issues.

Event Date: April 2, 2024, at 9am

The Retiree Association at Winona State is inviting UMRA members to join them a trip to Portugal in 2024. The final date to register is October 2, 2023. You're encouraged to register some time in August as spaces will fill up.

Event Date: April 4, 2024, at 1pm

The UMRA Cabinets of Curiosity tour will be at the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) Conservatory & Botanical Collection on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. The amazing glass-walled greenhouse features four biomes with distinct climates, landscapes, and floras, with particular emphasis on plants of the southern hemisphere. Please plan to join us in this special opportunity to visit spaces not normally open to the public. 

Event Date: April 10, 2024, at 12pm

Enroll by June 30, 2023, and receive a $100 discount.

Event Date: April 15, 2024, at 10am

UMN Technology Commercialization facilitates the transfer of UMN innovation beyond the research lab by helping our diverse researchers in development of new products and services that benefit the public good, foster economic growth, and generate revenue to support the University's mission.

Event Date: April 26, 2024, at 12pm

The UMRA Travel Committee is happy to offer another trip for UMRA members, The Splendors of Egypt. Please click on the above link for the itinerary, hotels, and other details. Final registration deadline: January 27, 2024.

Event Date: May 6, 2024, at 12:45pm

This session will continue the discussion begun in the May 8, 2023 session.  See that article for details.