Monday, May 13, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Nevada legislators say they’re nearing an agreement that would shift millions of dollars to Southern Nevada colleges.
The deal involves transferring several million dollars to UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College while also providing temporary funding to rural community colleges that will offset planned reductions to funding at those institutions.
The practical effect of such a deal would be to shift money to southern institutions two years ahead of what Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval had recommended earlier this year. Sandoval's budget doesn't significantly increase the amount of funding devoted to higher education but does change how it's allocated. The new allocation formula would divert funding from northern community colleges to institutions in the south part of the state.
“There are some things that’ll provide more funding for southern schools now,” said Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who has chaired a higher education subcommittee this year.
Horne said dollar amounts are still “fluid,” but the Legislature has scheduled a higher education budget hearing for Wednesday to hear the plan.
The numbers have gone through various iterations during the past months as lawmakers, the governor and the Board of Regents have examined how Nevada pays for its public higher education system.
At first, it appeared $13.2 million would be headed to southern colleges. Then the figure changed to $8.8 million. Horne would not say how many millions of dollars his plan entailed, only that the final figures were “still evolving.”
“I’m working very hard to get that funding now,” he said.
The final figures should help the College of Southern Nevada the most because it has been the most underfunded of all the Nevada System of Higher Education institutions.
UNR could either gain or lose money due to the funding changes. Sandoval’s budget proposal adds money to the UNR budget. But an earlier recommendation by the Nevada System of Higher Education would result in a loss for the Reno university.
If Horne’s final deal stays within the bounds of previous recommendations, UNLV would add between $183,000 and $3,197,979 to its annual budget; CSN would add between $2,298,667 and $8,192,851; NSC would add between $3,028,141 and $4,552,147.
Although the details differ, the broad contours of the plan — apportioning money among colleges based on graduation rates and instructional costs — remain the same. The southern institutions would get more money under the new plan.
“I’m 99 percent sure of that,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas.
Southern Nevada legislators have met with Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich to discuss the changes.
Sandoval’s office may be involved as well.
Horne said Sandoval will “know what we’re talking about” once legislators finalize a plan.
Meanwhile, rural legislators have been worried that the rural colleges would receive huge budget cuts without any time to prepare for them. They want to ensure that those institutions have some bridge funding that will carry them through the next two years, giving them time to prepare for the budget cuts.
“We haven’t landed on a dollar amount, but we’re working on mitigation,” said Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.
He said he was hoping for a 1-1 replacement of the dollars the rural institutions expect to lose, but “I don’t think I’ll get it.”
A sizable amount of money given to the rural colleges would soften the blow at Great Basin College, Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College — each is slated to lose between $2.3 million and $4.9 million during the upcoming academic year under the governor’s proposal.
Klaich said there was broad consensus among legislators and the governor’s office that this was a “fundamentally good formula” for changing how the state pays for its higher education system.
It’s the details that legislators and the governor need to address by June 3, the last day of the legislative session.