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Jenna Duncan

Branding, hires to help with overhaul

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By Jenna Duncan

UNT brings on temps, creates banner and shirts to help tackle finances

The University of North Texas System has brought on another 14 temporary employees to help sort through its finances and introduced a new marketing campaign for the project.

The announcements came at the second meeting of the Financial Oversight Task Force committee of the Board of Regents on Tuesday, when university officials and consultants told regents the financial overhaul was about halfway done and set to be finished on time. The additional hires will help make the timeline more feasible, said Janet Waldron, vice chancellor for finance.

A banner behind Waldron and other speakers throughout the meeting read “Transformers: Accuracy. Integrity. Accountability.” as she introduced the campaign, and offered up T-shirts.

“You see behind me the branding that we’ve done to create spirit, energy and enthusiasm around this truly transformation effort that is underway across the system,” she said.

The banner cost $51.75, and the 250 T-shirts cost $2,892.50 for those involved in the project, according to university spokeswoman Kelley Reese.

The morale of the employees and regents was apparent during the meeting, even without the new campaign. Regents and officials said they felt they had made significant progress and hadn’t yet uncovered any major errors that didn’t relate back to UNT’s $23 million overstatement or problems with state-funded benefits, both uncovered earlier this year.

“In general, you can tell the board is increasingly confident we’re making great progress,” Lee Jackson, system chancellor, said after the meeting. “I wake up every day with a certain excitement we’re finally having the opportunity to address some of the legacy practices that were outdated and needed improvement.”

The task force was created by Board of Regents Chairman Brint Ryan to help regents stay informed on the “financial transformation project” underway in the UNT System and at its campuses. The effort was spurred after two revelations were made public about the university finances: The UNT budget was overstated by an estimated $23 million since 2012, and the system and campuses spent $83.5 million of state dollars they shouldn’t have over a period of 10 years.

While different aspects of the project vary in stages of completion, they are following the timelines set forth with UNT leadership and the help of consulting firm Deloitte & Touche.

So far, regents have authorized $1.35 million in payments to Deloitte for its efforts and are considering more in a meeting scheduled for Thursday. According to an agenda for the special called board meeting, the board is set to authorize another agreement between the university and the firm for additional services.

Additionally, UNT will pay another firm, Huron Consulting Group, to create a new system to track how money is received and allocated.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.