Las Vegas Sun

July 22, 2014

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Higher Education:

Action on cuts waiting until lawmakers say how much

The discussion on budget reductions ended quickly at a meeting of the higher education system’s Board of Regents last week in Carson City.

That’s because the Legislature has yet to decide how much state agencies, including the higher education system, will have to cut.

Jim Rogers, the system’s chancellor, told the board his staff is “waiting for a number.” Until more information is available on the size of the shortfall higher education institutions will face, campuses and, ultimately, the board, will not be able to make final decisions on issues such as whether to eliminate academic programs.

As Chairman Michael Wixom told his fellow regents, “There isn’t much to report.”

The budget limbo has strained higher education officials, who have spent the past year planning for cuts that could be massive. Particularly frustrating has been the state’s ever-changing financial outlook.

Last year the governor asked higher education administrators to prepare a plan for 14 percent budget reductions. This year the governor proposed reducing the higher education system’s budget by more than a third.

Top legislators have said the system cannot withstand such a large cut, but they also said last week that the state’s projected budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years had grown by $400 million to $500 million.

•••

In a nod to the budget crisis, UNLV’s vice president for advancement is giving up the opportunity for a performance bonus this fiscal year and next.

Each year, Bill Boldt is eligible for a bonus of up to $25,000, to be paid using nonstate money. But he has told his bosses he is not interested in receiving the extra money, “even though, in my opinion, he is deserving of all or most of this bonus,” UNLV President David Ashley said.

Boldt, who makes more than $275,000 a year without the bonus, said he also will not ask for the additional compensation next year.

“I just philosophically didn’t feel comfortable, seeing layoffs and me taking a bonus,” he said. “I don’t think that’s right.”

Boldt oversees more than 100 employees in areas including alumni relations, public affairs and marketing. He also oversees the university’s efforts to raise private money, including an ongoing $500 million fundraising drive.

UNLV had planned to complete that campaign by the end of 2008 but, with the economy tanking, extended the deadline by a year.

Though the university did not complete the fundraising drive by December, Ashley said he is pleased by the progress Boldt has made toward the $500 million target. The university announced in December that it was within $50 million of that goal.

Boldt started at UNLV in 2007, several years after the campaign began, taking over departments and responsibilities formerly delegated to two vice presidents.

•••

At their meeting last week, regents approved the creation of a graduate student association at Desert Research Institute, a public entity with branches in Las Vegas and Reno.

The institute, which conducts research on topics such as wind energy and air quality, employs 60 students from Nevada’s public higher education institutions — 15 in Las Vegas and 45 in Reno.

Lise Comartin and KC King, UNR students who work at Desert Research Institute, said the organization will allow students to voice their concerns to administrators in a coherent manner. The group, they said, will also enable students from across the institute to network and learn about one another’s work, leading to opportunities for collaboration on research.

King is president and Comartin is vice president of the new association.

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