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Move to Concord eyed for offices of university system

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 30. 2013 11:02PM

University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Todd J. Leach is considering moving administrative offices to Concord to save money.

The prospect of making operations more cost-effective comes amid what has become perennial scrutiny of the chancellor's office by some in the Legislature as well as a regular cost-benefit review of shared services by university trustees themselves. The chancellor's office, located on an administrative campus just west of the Lee traffic circle on Route 4, operates on an estimated $11 million budget and with about 70 full-time equivalent employees.

The idea behind moving administrative offices is that Concord is more central to all of the sister institutions, as well as state and legislative leaders.

Nothing will be decided for several months, said Tiffany Eddy, a spokeswoman for USNH. It is "in the exploratory stage," she said in a phone interview Saturday.

By centralizing existing services, USNH saves money for its member institutions and, according to a 2012 consultant's report, enjoys the lowest administrative overhead of any public university system in New England. In its report, the Huron Consulting Group estimated the shared services saves the university system $6 million to $9 million.

The report recommended the chancellor place greater emphasis on "leading the system office in providing cost-effective shared service and financial control.''

USNH includes the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University, Keene State College and Granite State College. A 27-member board of trustees administers the system. Pamela Diamantis of Greenland is chairwoman. Ex-offio board members include Leach and university and college presidents, as well as Gov. Maggie Hassan. Former Gov. John Lynch, who served on the board before he was elected in 2004, rejoined the board in September after being nominated by Hassan.

Pros and cons of a potential move will be considered, including effectiveness of operations and possible work disruptions, according to Eddy.

USNH has operated from the administrative offices just west of the Lee traffic circle since 1974, nine years after the Legislature created the modern "university system." Dunlap Center is at 25 Concord Road, and Myers Center, which includes financial and capital projects operations, is at 27 Concord Road, also known as Route 4. The administrative functions there include accounting services, government affairs, human resources and legal counsel.

The USNH online staff listing shows 27 people at the Dunlap Center and 14 at the Myers Center. Others work in Durham.

At this time, Eddy said, she is unaware of any one building or address being discussed for a potential relocation.

Granite State College has a Concord location, at 25 Hall St. According to board of trustees' records, its financial affairs committee voted Oct. 24 to approve the Granite State College purchase of its Concord campus, known as Gateway Center, for up to $4.9 million.

Beyond cost savings, lawmakers have looked at the university system for its organizational structure and transparency. One bill introduced this past legislative session proposed restricting the chancellor's office from hiring full-time equivalent employees at its central office. The bill was killed. Another bill, introduced in 2012 and subsequently rejected, proposed eliminating the chancellor's position amid other organizational changes.

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