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December 18, 2014

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Panel approves university system’s budget with 12.5 percent cut

CARSON CITY – The Senate Finance Committee has approved a $592 million annual budget for the university-college system in each of the next two years but there was grumbling that UNLV is getting favored treatment.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has recommended a 37.5 percent cut in state funds for the Nevada System of Higher Educations for the coming two years.

But the Finance Committee agreed to restoring $158.1 million to the system over the next two years. And the budget calls for a 4 percent pay reduction, not the 6 percent recommended by the governor. And money is restored to pay for health insurance premiums for employees.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, was unhappy that UNLV will receive $10.4 million in so-called “stop loss” money over the next two years compared to UNR, which will receive $1.9 million.

Raggio complained there was an “inequity and a temporary distortion” in the allocation.

But Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said both campuses are being hurt. “I’m sure the battle will continue,” he said, referring to the north-south fight. The reason, he said, is that “there is not enough money to go around.”

The budget for the higher education system is cut 12.5 percent from its present funding level. Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich said the system determined that the two universities would not be reduced by more than 15.3 percent.

Under the “stop loss” formula, it took more money going to UNLV than to UNR to make sure it did not go beyond 15.3 percent.

Built into the present budget is a 5 percent increase in student tuition each year. And lawmakers want the regents to consider further increases, possibly up to 10 percent a year.

But Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the regents have to be careful because for every percentage increase “you close access to someone who cannot afford it.”

Coffin was the lone dissenting vote on the budget, saying “We could have done more.” He complained about the stance of the governor for no new taxes. Coffin said Gibbons “has refused to recognize the problems. He has no skill in operating government.”

Raggio said he was a “reluctant supporter” of the budget but he thought the Legislature is “short changing” the university system compared to the public schools. “We have not achieved parity on funding,” he said comparing the university-college system with K-12.

The Senate committee approved the budget for support of the public schools showing that the present $5,214 allocated per student will go to $5,251 next fiscal year and then to $5,395 in fiscal 2011.

The budget for the schools, according to legislative figures, shows the total state share presently at $1.436 billion going to $1.483 billion next fiscal year and to $1.559 billion the following year.

Both of these budgets were fashioned by separate subcommittees of senators and assembly members before being presented to the committees.

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