Chancellor: Budget cuts could cripple NV education
RENO (AP) – The head of Nevada’s higher education system says the extra budget cuts sought by Gov. Jim Gibbons could cripple colleges and universities and endanger the $184 million they have been promised in federal stimulus funds.
“The state made certain representations about the level of support that would be maintained for education in accepting those stimulus dollars, and those limitations are in full force,” Chancellor Dan Klaich said.
“We could lose that money. And keep in mind, we have not received all of it yet, so it’s still at risk,” he said.
The Republican governor has directed all state agencies to submit plans outlining how they would cut their budgets by 6 percent, 8 percent or 10 percent to offset a $72 million shortfall. The Nevada System of Higher Education has yet to submit one.
Klaich said an 8 percent reduction would mean a cut of $13.3 million in the first year and $40 million the second year.
“It calls into question what important services can survive,” he said. “I think it’s going to be extremely detrimental to the state.”
State Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said the state’s eight campuses must bear their fair share of future budget cuts but warned there are limits to how much all levels of education can sacrifice without harming Nevada’s future.
In a letter sent last Monday to Gibbon’s administration director, Klaich said the Nevada Board of Regents, which oversees the state higher education system and has sole authority to approve budget cuts, wasn’t notified of the governor’s latest request and its Jan. 5 deadline until 10 days after its Dec. 3 meeting.
The regents have scheduled a special videoconference Feb. 2 to discuss the situation.
Klaich said additional cuts pose a real hardship because higher education took the biggest hit of all the state agencies last year when the Legislature slashed its general fund support by almost one-fourth.
Federal stimulus funds will only partially offset that loss, he said.
With enrollment up by more than 4 percent statewide and people seeking to improve their job skills, Klaich said higher education might not be able to meet that demand with more budget cuts.
“Indeed, the board has already heard discussion regarding enrollment caps,” he said.
Klaich said the governor has other options.
“I think with prudent cash management, the governor can, at a minimum, make it through the current fiscal year,” Klaich said. “I think this is a situation that calls for moving cautiously and slowly as opposed to doing the maximum possible reduction at the earliest time.”
Raggio said any budget cuts to education would be extremely difficult.
“We do have a line of credit the governor himself put into the budget that was to be used for these kinds of situations,” Raggio said. “We also can transfer money between fiscal years. All those alternatives will have to be looked at, but any cuts to education obviously are going to be serious.”
Milton Glick, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, said his campus would have to reduce its budget this fiscal year by $4.19 million and by $12.6 million next year under an 8 percent reduction plan.
“That’s huge when you consider we’ve already taken $33 million in cuts,” he said. “We couldn’t make more without eliminations, whether that means departments or services, and that would have serious consequences.”
Glick said Nevada ranks last among the states in the likelihood of a 19-year-old going on to college.
“I think as we look at the future of this state, having an education is the key to future prosperity, and one doesn’t want to eat their seed corn,” he said.