Even as other state agencies struggle under Gov. Kenny Guinn's orders to live within their budgets, university and community college officials laid out budget proposals Friday that would increase spending on higher education by nearly $150 million.
The requests would be in addition to normal increases in spending needed to maintain existing staff and services, such as higher electric bills.
Regents softened Guinn's admonition, telling the two universities, community colleges and the Desert Research Institute to keep their requests for enhancements under 30 percent.
When added to the general increases in cost, the enhancements would raise the total two-year spending program for the university system from $840 million to more than $1 billion. Acting Chancellor Tom Anderes said staff members will refine the figures for regents to review at their May 9 meeting.
UNLV President Carol Harter brought in a total of $82.9 million in budget increases, topped by $21.5 million she says is needed to bring the Las Vegas campus up to parity with UNR in per-student funding. Another $28.7 million, she said, is necessary to keep pace with UNLV's growth.
Her list also included $11.4 million for a new dental school, which brought a protest from Regent Dave Phillips, who said the board was promised the school would be financially self-sufficient. During the 1999 Legislature, lawmakers and regents were told the school would pay its way by practicing dentistry in the community.
Harter said she doesn't know of any publicly run dental school in the country that doesn't require some state funding - a contention UNLV officials never mentioned during the 1999 Legislature's discussion of the proposal.
"Perhaps we need to go back to Sen. Rawson and ask him to make good on his promise to make it self-sufficient," said Phillips, referring to school's creator Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas.
Jill Derby, who chairs the board of Regents, ordered a report on the school and its financial situation for the June meeting.
After UNLV, the largest enhancement budget was presented by Community College of Southern Nevada. President Robert Silverman said $36.6 million in enhancements are needed to keep pace with a 10 percent a year growth rate. He said if that continues, there will be 121,000 students at CCSN by 2010.
He said cost-of-living raises for faculty are the top priority because the schools must keep good teachers.
By comparison, most of the other requests were tiny. UNR listed $14 million in enhancements for its budget. Western Nevada Community College listed just $2 million in enhancements and great Basin College of Elko $2.35 million.
Truckee Meadows Community College, fastest growing of the northern schools, put in for $11.3 million
Nearly all the campus presidents listed cost-of-living increases for university faculty and "support formula" funding as their top priorities for the coming biennium.
"A COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) is our highest priority," said UNR President Joe Crowley.
The smallest request on the list was for $1.6 million by DRI.
The regents will review the different campus budgets at their May 9 meeting and then make the final decisions on what to ask the 2001 Legislature for in June.