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August 2, 2014

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Regents: Capital improvement funds could plug budget gaps

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents will consider a proposal Dec. 4 to tap capital improvement funds for operating budget shortfalls — a shift that Nevada State College President Fred Maryanski believes would be helpful but nowhere near a panacea in dealing with mandated budget cuts.

"In these difficult times we would simply like the flexibility to use the funds in whatever way best meets the institution's needs," he said. "It's money that is already present."

The move would mark only a temporary suspension of board policy regarding the funds generated by student fees. Maryanski estimated that roughly $100,000 would be made available to Nevada State for one-time expenses. He added that the new campus had not yet encountered much use for the funds, which are targeted toward renovation.

"We'd look at applying the funds on the operating side as the situation warrants," Maryanski said.

While school officials do not yet know where the funds would specifically be allocated, he said $100,000 is enough to cover the expenses of 15 courses taught by part-time instructors. Other schools, he said, will have greater funding available than Nevada State.

Educators are grappling with how to make state-mandated budget cuts estimated between 14 and 34 percent in the next biennium, Maryanski said.

"It's something that helps," he said. "We're simply looking at everything that helps."

Maryanski hopes the shift, while minor, will pass. He also does not expect much opposition from students.

"I don't believe the students would have a great deal of difficulty with this proposal," he said. "We're still using the money to support their education."

But regent Mark Alden, who represents Henderson, said he would vote against such a proposal unless it receives student approval.

"I will not rob from the students," he said. "Those are student fees that were designated for capital improvement. Now if the students agree, that's different, but we don't have a right to take that money."

College of Southern Nevada officials referred comments on the proposal to the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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