Lawmakers slash university funding | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers slash university funding

When university enrollments rose unexpectedly two years ago, legislators refused to add money to the system’s per-student formula funding, instead telling the campuses to live within their budgets.

That decision forced the system to absorb some $20 million in costs of teaching those added students.

Earlier this session, university lobbyist Dan Miles testified the situation is reversed this year, with enrollments coming in several thousand less than projected when the proposed budget was built. He asked lawmakers to stick with their 2003 reasoning and not change the budget.

The argument fell on deaf ears Thursday as lawmakers voted to take an estimated $23.5 million out of the university budget and use it elsewhere – although it won’t hurt Western Nevada Community College as much as others.

Chancellor Jim Rogers said unless the decision is reversed or a compromise reached, the reduction in funds would be “somewhat devastating.”

“I don’t think the issue is dead at this point,” he said. “But if it ended up that way I would be very disappointed because, this time, they’ve got the money to give us.”

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University officials are asking lawmakers to add up to $14 million, rather than take away $23.5 million.

The motion to cut formula funding was made by Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas.

The cutback doesn’t apply equally across the campuses in the university system but hits campuses according to how much their enrollments fell below last fall’s projections. The vast majority of the reduction – $17.5 million – will come out of the Community College of Southern Nevada’s budget.

Another $8.56 million will come out of the University of Nevada Reno’s budget while University of Nevada, Las Vegas will see a $2.8 million increase, Truckee Meadows Community College a $1 million increase and Western Nevada Community College a $584,526 increase because enrollment at those campuses is rising faster than projected.

Senate Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said his vote for the reduction was conditional. All the issues resolved by the subcommittee must be voted on again by the full Finance and Ways and Means committees.

Faculty Alliance spokesman Jim Richardson said another damaging decision by the Senate Finance-Ways and Means subcommittee was an Assembly vote to deny top paid positions access to merit pay raises.

“What they’re saying is no top paid people can get a raise,” said Richardson. “That hurts recruitment and retention.”

Members on the Senate side approved the merit pool, including access for top-scale workers to the competitively awarded raises.

The subcommittee voted not to expand athletic fee waivers to Nevada’s community college system. The original proposal provided waivers not only to UNR and UNLV but to the Community College of Southern Nevada. Later, the university system asked WNCC in Carson City be included.

Lawmakers agreed last session to put state money into the waivers for the first time. But Raggio opposed expanding the waivers to community colleges, saying “once you open the door, you are opening up a big door.”

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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