Friday, March 27, 2009 | 11:40 a.m.
CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley this morning told the hierarchy of the Nevada System of Higher Education to fix the budget inequities that hit UNLV harder than the other schools.
And she noted, those funding inequities had existed for years already. Buckley told Chancellor Jim Rogers and Executive Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich that UNLV would have gotten “wacked” in the 2007 Legislature had extra money not been put into the budget at the end of the session.
UNLV was underfunded in 2007 because of all the changes in the system, said Buckley. These included the opening of Nevada State College in Clark County, the changes in the Millennium Scholarship eligibility and the tightening of the admission criteria.
“Because of the way the formula was set up, they (UNLV) have a significant financial deficit,” said Buckley. She said those who run the system have not addressed the problem so UNLV is still taking “a disproportionate hit,” in the budget.
She said the problems continue to plague the school and they need to be remedied.
Her comments came at a legislative budget subcommittee in which two alternative plans were unveiled to fund the system. Legislators are rejecting Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposal to slice the higher education system’s budget by 35.9 percent.
The system has asked the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for a $617.2 million state general fund budget, or 9.44 percent less than the 2009 budget.
Under that scenario, funding for UNLV would go down 13.5 percent next fiscal year and 13.6 percent in 2011. At the University of Nevada Reno, the reduction would be 11.9 percent in fiscal 2010 and 10.8 percent in the following fiscal year.
Rogers told the subcommittee the system can’t make any changes in the UNLV funding until it sees how much it will get from the Legislature. He suggested a 5 percent reduction in the budget.
Buckley, D-Las Vegas, told Rogers to make a list of priorities on those things that are essential. Rogers said he would not put anything in writing because of the “sensitive” nature of the higher system of education.
Klaich jumped in to offset the refusal of his boss. Klaich told the committee he would work with legislative staff in developing the priorities for the system.
In an about face, Rogers told the subcommittee that if accepting the federal stimulus funds is the most advantageous for the system, then he would support that. Previously he indicated that that would not be the best thing for the system.
Buckley told a reporter after the meeting the Legislature plans to “spread the pain” and not hit any institution harder than others in budget reductions.
In a second alternative plan, the system would receive $555.1 million raising it to the 2006 level of funding. That would mean a systemwide reduction of 18.6 percent resulting in a 24.9 percent cut to UNLV and a 21.7 percent cut to UNR.
A 5 percent increase in student registration fees was not factored into the alternate plans. The higher education system’s Board of Regents has already approved a 5 percent increase in fee charges for the coming semester. And the additional 5 percent would bring in $9 million to $10 million more from students, fiscal staff of the Legislature said.
The subcommittee will meet April 17 to again discuss the issue. But in the weeks leading up to that, lawmakers and university officials will continue trying to come up with a final number.
Rogers, who has been a controversial and outspoken figure, was praised by some subcommittee members for his passionate support of the university system. In particular, Buckley, who is widely expected to run for governor, lauded Rogers prior to the budget discussion. As a millionaire, Rogers is expected to be a major campaign contributor in the gubernatorial race.
Rogers has said he will give up the chancellor post this summer after holding it for five years.
Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].