University system seeks 20 percent budget increase, citing growth

The university system is asking regents and the state for a 20 percent increase in the budget to a total of $1.54 billion for the next two fiscal years.

That is $260 million more than the current two-year budget.

But the true cost to the state would be just about $350 million more because the general fund must also pick up the $89.4 million in estate tax revenue contained in the current budget. That money won't be there in fiscal 2005-6 and 2006-7 because Congress - in a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., - is eliminating the estate tax.

The Legislature in 2003 agreed to make up that amount after the estate tax was eliminated.

The lion's share of the $260.3 million increase is driven by a total of more than 13 percent growth in enrollment expected at Nevada's two universities, four community colleges and Nevada State College at Henderson. Growth is listed at $132.4 million for the biennium, consisting of an increase in the so-called "formula funding" and additional students paying tuition.

Support formulas are currently funded at 84 percent. The proposed budget asks that that be increased to 87 percent.

University and Community College System of Nevada officials project total enrollment will increase from 61,811 this year to 69,901 by 2007. But that is only part of the growth cost built into the budget. The other part is the increase in formula funding form 84 to 87 percent - more than $18 million of the total.

The budget includes money to cover seniority step increases for classified workers and the "merit pool," which provides similar pay adjustments for professors and other unclassified university employees. Those increases will cost just under $30 million.

But there are no funds in the proposed budget for cost-of-living raises. The Faculty Senate has recommended a 3.75 percent pay raise each year, but the governor's office - the budget plan notes - prefers to make its own proposal for raises for all state employee groups.

Since the proposed budget must be submitted to Gov. Kenny Guinn's office by Sept. 1, regents must act on it at this week's meeting. Then Guinn's budget staff and the Legislative Counsel Bureau's fiscal staff will review and analyze it before lawmakers vote on a final spending plan at the end of the Legislative session.

More than 77 percent of the total budget comes form the state general fund - just less than $1.2 billion under the proposal approved by regents. Student fees contribute a total of $307 million - about 20 percent - and "other" funds the remaining $40 million.

Projections say UNLV will grow to 22,676 students by 2007 - about 14 percent - and UNR by more than 7 percent to 14,163 students. Western Nevada Community College is projected to have the slowest growth rate - just over 2 percent over the coming to years to 2,276 students. UNLV's share of that budget would increase more than 21 percent under the spending plan to a total of $840 million, and UNR's total to $655 million. SNCC's budget, by comparison, would total $82 million for the biennium.

In addition to the proposed system budget, the request includes $100.67 million in new funding, including expansions of nursing programs, creation of a security program for critical facilities in the state and raises for part-time faculty.

It would cost $4.54 million to double the capacity of nursing programs within the system. Lawmakers directed the system to do everything possible to expand the programs because of the shortage of registered nurses in the state.

A $5.5 million request was included to have the Desert Research Institute establish and maintain a program to monitor critical facilities in the state. The network will be designed for use by state officials and emergency services and address specific security needs.

In addition, the system is asking for $4.5 million to hire more campus police and security officers and upgrade communications and dispatch services to improve campus security.

Finally, $9.7 million is being requested to raise pay for part-time faculty. The target salary would be $862 per credit at the universities, $819 at Nevada State College and $776 at community colleges.

Contact Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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