Regents back bigger budget
August 8, 2008
Despite instructions to cut general fund spending by up to 14 percent, the state Board of Regents voted Friday to ask the state for a budget nearly 10 percent larger than that approved by the 2007 Legislature.
They did so with the majority arguing their responsibility is to present a budget that will provide for the needs of students in the system.
“I don’t think anywhere in Nevada law or the Constitution it says it’s the system’s responsibility to balance the state budget,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich after the vote.
The governor’s office has ordered all state general fund agencies to prepare budgets that ask for 14 percent less than the amounts approved by the 2007 Legislature.
Klaich told the board that the staff recommends instead presenting the state “a budget that is reflective of our current appropriations and that has the cuts of this current biennium restored.” That means restoring the 4.5 percent general fund cut in January and the 3.4 percent cut by the 24th special session of the Legislature in June.
In addition, he said “rollups” for inflation, employee step increases, higher utilities and the like need to be added to the $1.3 billion appropriated by the Legislature in 2007.
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That would bring the state portion of the university system budget to $1.44 billion.
Over and above that board Chairman Michael Wixom said it’s important to ask for the $10 million reverted earlier this year to pay for the computerized student records system and just under $4 million to hire a director and core administrative staff for the Health Sciences System project.
They also asked for funding to “hold harmless” campuses with falling enrollment so they don’t cripple programs by losing funding tied to student numbers and an “equity adjustment” at College of Southern Nevada, which has long argued it doesn’t receive a fair share of per-student formula funding compared to the system’s other seven campuses.
Wixom said those enhancements are critical to the system.
“I don’t think anyone on the chancellor’s staff or any one of the presidents makes any excuse for any portion of this budget,” Klaich told the board. “We have brought forward to you what we believe are critical needs.”
“We need these enhancements,” said Regent James Leavitt. “There’s nothing to apologize for.”
Regent Cedrick Crear joined that opinion: “These are imperative measures we feel need to happen in order for us to properly provide a quality education.”
The only real objection came from Regent Dorothy Gallagher.
“I don’t think we can go forward with all the enhancements without having our credibility questioned because they’re going to ask what rock we’ve been living under.”
Regent Jason Geddes said the system needs to “fight to keep what we have.”
But he conceded the battle won’t be easy.
“It’ll be a big fight just to maintain where we’re at and maintain funding levels,” he said.
He was joined by Stavros Anthony, who said he agrees everything on the original budget is needed.
“But in reality, this is going to be cut,” he said.
Steve Sisolak said the budget enhancement package “isn’t some frivolous extra.”
“It’s like, you buy a car and tires are an extra. You want tires on a car.”
He told student leaders in the audience they would be instrumental in convincing lawmakers the system needs more, not less, money.
“They won’t listen to us,” he said.
Ron Knecht said he was “a little bit tired of us thinking we’re so precious and so special.” But when the motion was presented, he voted for it. Only Gallagher was silent in the vote.
Wixom said the vote sets the stage for discussion on whether to make cuts or consider adding in other enhancements to the proposed budget, which must be submitted to the budget office by Aug. 29.
“We’re obligated by statute to provide a budget, obligated to provide a budget but not with a specific number,” he said.
The board holds a special meeting Aug. 21 to finalize its proposed budget.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.