Shortfall mandates would hit university system hard

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Guinn ordered state agencies to figure out how to cut 3 percent from general fund spending to help cover the budget shortfall. He said spread across the state, that would save a total of $40 million this fiscal year. It is part of a series of moves Guinn ordered to cover a total $275 million budget shortfall this biennium.

But Nichols said it isn't certain the system is under that mandate.

"It's my expectation that the education sector, both higher education and public schools, would be exempted from that," Nichols told the Board of Regents.

She said that and the cuts the system has already had to make because of the budget shortfall brought on by Sept. 11 and the recession would bring the total hit on the university system to nearly $26 million.

She said the system is already absorbing $5 million that it will cost to increase the premium payments for employee members of the Public Employee Benefits Program. That increase was approved during July's special session of the Legislature but, under the governor's plan no additional money was put into agency budgets. They were simply told to absorb the costs.

The campuses are also absorbing $3.2 million in increased utility costs that the state originally budgeted money to pay for. Guinn and the legislative Interim Finance Committee pulled that money back to help cover the shortfall as well. Likewise, the university system lost about $600,000 in money for non-formula equipment purchases.

Nichols said all that is in addition to the estimated $4.5 million shortage particularly the Reno and Las Vegas main campuses as well as Community College of Southern Nevada will absorb because enrollments there have exceeded projections used to develop their budgets.

Finally, regents were required this year to reimburse the state $1.48 million in funds essentially generated by increased income from student fees last year.

Nichols told regents if the Legislature and governor don't help restore some of those losses, particularly the employee benefits money, when they meet in February 2003, it will reduce class offerings.

"I must tell you we will not be able to offer the full complement of classes in the spring semester," she said.


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