Nevada Legislature: Budget includes pay raises for state workers; bridge funding for Western Nevada College | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Legislature: Budget includes pay raises for state workers; bridge funding for Western Nevada College

The budget deal worked out between the governor and lawmakers includes pay raises for state workers in both years of the biennium.

Assembly Bill 489, the pay bill, includes a 1 percent pay raise effective July 1 and a 2 percent raise in fiscal 2017.

The raises apply to state workers including those in classified service and those who are non-classified. It includes classified employees within the university system.

In addition, the plan includes merit pay for the professional employees within the university system.

Kevin Ranft of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said the increase may be small but, “it’s going to make a drastic difference for state employees.”

He said state workers had a raise in 2007 but that it was “eaten up” by increases in retirement and health benefits premiums, so state workers really haven’t had a raise that actually increased their take-home pay for 10 years.

This raise too, Ranft said, will offset the rising cost of retirement premiums but is a strong message on behalf of state workers.

The total cost of the raises will be just over $9 million in fiscal 2016 and $27.6 million in 2017 for a total of just over $36.6 million.

That includes $3.45 million for Highway Fund workers, $5.97 million over two years for university system classified workers and $13.19 million for NSHE professional staff. It includes $7.88 million to cover Legislative Counsel Bureau staff and $13.17 million for executive and judicial branch classified raises.

The bill also sets maximum salaries for the unclassified administrators, directors and other top state officials but most of those positions did not appear to receive increases in this budget cycle.

The bill was introduced in the Assembly on Saturday.

In addition, the Appropriations Act, which sets the state’s General Fund spending for the coming biennium, adds funding for Western Nevada College and Great Basin College totaling about $5 million.

The “bridge funding” to get those two small colleges through the conversion to the new funding formula was included by the Board of Regents but cut by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

University officials have described the added money as critical to the two community colleges that have been hardest hit by budget cuts during the recession and the conversion to the new weighted student enrollment formula that emphasizes full-time students over part-timers who are the typical community college students.

Finally, the plan includes about $1 million for the Desert Research Institute to help that institution convert to the formula that depends heavily on student class credits. DRI is a research institution with very few actual students.

The Appropriations Act also reportedly includes money to jump start creation of the new UNLV Medical School.

That act details spending of all General Fund money for the coming biennium and is expected to be introduced in the Senate today.

Its counterpart is the Authorizations Act that spells out how other money including federal money will be spent. It was introduced in the Assembly Saturday.

The final two pieces of the budget puzzle are the Capital Improvement Projects budget and the DSA — the funding for K-12 education that totals nearly $3.5 billion.

The CIP bill includes the $48 million to build the UNLV Hotel College, half of which must be raised by UNLV.

The Senate will handle the DSA bill while the Assembly processes the CIP bill.