Faculty representatives told legislative money committees Wednesday that the 12 percent budget cuts imposed by Gov. Steve Sisolak are extremely damaging to their ability to provide students a quality education.
They made the statements during public comment at the end of a joint Senate Finance, Assembly Ways and Means hearing Wednesday.
During that hearing, system Chief Financial Officer Andrew Clinger told lawmakers that 82 percent of the Nevada System of Higher Education budget goes to salaries and benefits at NSHE’s eight institutions.
“The only place we can cut is to reduce our workforce,” said Amy Pason, UNR Faculty Senate chair.
She said the cuts will also put “diversity of faculty” on hold.
Laura Naumann of the Nevada State College faculty senate said the bulk of budget cuts resulted in the elimination of frozen positions and has especially impacted full-time, tenure-track faculty.
Kent Ervin, head of the system’s Faculty Alliance, made similar statements.
Several of those faculty spokesmen including Ervin also asked that lawmakers remove language prohibiting the system from using state funding to support merit or performance pay raises. He said that is revenue neutral since the money comes from each institution’s approved budget, not as an enhancement.
“It only works if state and non-state funding can be used,” he said.
Naumann said it’s “very demoralizing to not see any merit increases.”
They pointed out that the Board of Regents voted to support allowing campuses to use 1 percent of salary money for performance pay.
Clinger told the joint committee session that, while the governor was able to add back some of what he originally proposed cutting, total state funding is still down 7.8 percent in 2022 and 7.5 percent in 2023, a total of $169 million over the biennium compared to the budget approved by the 2019 Legislature.
State funding is the largest portion of the NSHE budget and Clinger said salaries and benefits make up $93.1 million of that reduction.
He said registration fees will increase in the coming biennium but only by 2.8 percent.
Among the enhancements is $300,000 per year in capacity enhancements at Western Nevada College in Carson City and Fallon. The money will go to the Jump Start and Dual Credit initiatives providing services to high school students. It will also support WNC’s rural nursing program and retention of underserved populations.
Great Basin College will get $700,000 a year in capacity enhancement money, a significant amount of that to expand GBC’s nursing program to Ely.
Ways and Means Chair Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, told members this is just the first hearing into the governor’s recommended NSHE budget. The system’s total proposed budget is $1.98 trillion.