Lawmakers restore some money for Western Nevada College |

Lawmakers restore some money for Western Nevada College

by Geoff Dornan

Lawmakers made some effort Saturday to repair the damage caused when their subcommittee hacked funding out of budgets for Western Nevada and Great Basin colleges to protect Southern Nevada institutions.

But the $1 million a year they put into the two budgets still doesn’t get the two institutions back to the original amount recommended by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“This is still too bad a cut,” said WNC President Carol Lucey. “It’s still worse than (what the governor recommended).”

An interim committee including not only campus and administration but legislative members recommended those two campuses be “held harmless” this coming budget cycle as a new funding formula was put in place to move more money to southern institutions. Sandoval ignored that recommendation and called for a 10 percent cut the first year and 15 percent the second year of the biennium.

Lawmakers went even further Wednesday, approving the plan by Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, imposing a 15 percent cut from current funding in each year of the biennium.

Staff estimated the additional reduction at about $900,000 to the two schools. Adding back the $1 million each year would leave the two schools with a cut of about 11 percent the first year — just a bit less than the governor’s recommended budget. The money would be split almost 50-50 between the institutions.

That would put WNC at just a bit less than $13.5 million in 2014 and $13.3 million in 2015, and Great Basin with just under $12.5 million in 2014 and $12.3 million in 2015.

That is still less than the $15 million WNC received this year and the $14 million GBC has in its current budget.

Those totals are one-third or more below what the two colleges were getting in 2009.

Lucey said she hasn’t given up on finding some relief.

“It’s a lot of money, but never say die,” she said.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he hasn’t given up either. He asked staffers to figure out exactly how much money it would take to “hold harmless” the two small institutions for the coming biennium. That likely would require upward of $6 million additional dollars. He said that was the interim funding study’s recommendations and is still his goal.

Another fairly significant change was the removal of the UNLV Law School and Dental Schools from the so-called “bridge funding” to get institutions from the old formula to the new funding formula. That will cost about $831,000; lawmakers didn’t specify where that cash will come from.

Proposed system funding changes very little overall, with the total state dollars at $972.5 million for the coming two years.

The biggest change is in the methodology used to fund the various colleges within the university system. The old formula was based on credit hours for which the students at each institution enrolled. The new system is based on credit hours completed by those students. At least for the current biennium, no “F” grades count toward funding under the formula.

The new methodology shifts about $13 million from northern schools — primarily UNR — south to UNLV, Henderson State College and the College of Southern Nevada.