University system seeks 14.5 percent increase in proposed budget

The university system is requesting a 14.5 percent increase in its budget for the coming biennium.

The proposed budget is on the Board of Regents agenda for Friday.

Funding from all sources would be $830 million in 2016 and $889.6 million the following year, a total of $1.73 billion. The system is asking for most of the funds up front.

That total includes a 17.34 percent increase in state funding for a total of $1.16 billion. It also asks a 9.7 percent increase in student fee revenue.

The proposed budget includes “bridge funding to partially offset the negative impact of implementation of the new formula for rural colleges.”

Western Nevada College would get a $1.1 million infusion in 2016 and another $850,000 in 2017. Great Basin would get $1.5 million each year.

According to WNC President Chet Burton, WNC has cut 25 percent of its workforce since 2010. Campus operating budgets were chopped 25 percent in 2011 and took an additional 10 percent cut in each of 2014 and 2015.

Burton said the school’s state general fund budget has been cut back 37 percent or $6.3 million since 2010.

Great Basin President Mark Curtis said his school has seen similar budget cuts and suffered a 26 percent staff reduction.

He pointed out that drastic cuts hurt more in a small institution like GBC or WNC than in a major institution.

Although both schools have strategic plans to grow, it will take a decade to impact the new formula.

While GBC’s total budget would grow 3.9 percent to just under $34 million, WNC’s budget would decrease 3.4 percent to $37.8 million.

The biggest increases requested are for the two universities with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas getting a 17.5 percent increase to $633.5 million and University of Nevada, Reno getting a 22.2 percent increase to $548.6 million.

Among the enhancements in the proposed budget is a $31.7 million appropriation to establish a new medical school in Las Vegas and expand the existing school of medicine as well as $9.9 million to support enhancement of graduate medical education.

The budget document admits that funding is significant, but says it “cannot be made from funding now available to higher education.”

Citing the governor’s budget instructions, the spending plan includes money to eliminate the six-furlough days each year and funds to provide merit and step increases for employees.

Together, those two initiatives will cost the university system an estimated $24.46 million in 2016 and $37 million in 2017.

It calls for $10 million for the knowledge fund, $6 million for the Workforce Development Fund and $5 million for need based financial aid.

The budget plan also asks up to $6.5 million to enhance Millennium Scholarship funding.

Overall, state funding makes up just under two-thirds of the total higher education budget with student fees covering all but a tiny part of the remaining 34 percent.


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