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Action from NFA members needed now for FY25 COLA

03 Sep 2023 7:26 PM | Jim New (Administrator)

The next regular meeting of the Nevada Board of Regents will be held on September 7 and 8 at the TMCC Dandini campus. The main Board agenda, as well as the committee agendas, include multiple items that are of direct interest to higher education professionals across the state.

Noticeably missing from the agenda, however, is any discussion of the FY25 COLA. As you may recall, Governor Lombardo originally proposed to the 2023 Nevada Legislature cost-of-living adjustments of 8% and 4% for the biennium. Once the proposal emerged from the legislative sausage grinder, however, two separate bills were approved resulting in COLA of 12% in FY24 and 11% in FY25 for state employees, except NSHE professionals whose adjustments were qualified with the phrase “not to exceed,” as in not to exceed 12% and not to exceed 11%. 

In June, hundreds of NSHE faculty heeded NFA’s call to encourage the Board of Regents to approve 12% COLA for FY24 despite behind-closed-door advocacy by institutional administrators for adjustments between 8% and 10%. Even though it was summer break, these efforts led to dozens of emails to regents and more than 60 faculty speaking out during the Public Comment portion of the June 30 special meeting of the Board. Regents heard our message that faculty share equally with other state employees when salaries and benefits are cut and we should share equally when salaries and benefits improve. They acknowledged our concerns about falling further behind while costs accelerated, and they understood the difficulty of recruiting and retaining qualified faculty for an effective system of higher education. The Board approved 12% COLA for FY24 but delayed the decision for FY25 until a future date.  

Upon returning to campus for fall semester, faculty at the universities were told to prepare for operating budget cuts of $20 million at UNR and $50 million at UNLV. In some quarters, administrators blamed COLA. It appears that a whisper campaign is also underway claiming that an 11% adjustment for FY25 is impossible and promoting a smaller amount, such as the Governor’s original proposal of 4%. 

Given the dearth of substantial salary adjustments for the prior two decades, the Governor’s original recommendations of 8% and 4% appeared generous when he first proposed them. Now some administrators seem to believe we should be satisfied, if not grateful, for 4% in FY25 after receiving the largest single-year increase in NSHE history this year. After all, there has never been a biennium in recent history where faculty have received combined cost-of-living adjustments of 16%. It is, undeniably, a step forward. But even after a combined 16% adjustment for the biennium, since FY07, before the financial crisis, NSHE COLAs have lagged inflation by nearly 15%.

Nevertheless, the arguments remain the same. We share in the pain equally with other state employees. We should share in the largess equally, as well. Furthermore, NSHE must compete for faculty on the national level and it is critical that compensation remain competitive. The cost of living in Nevada’s urban cores has increased dramatically in the last decade and inadequate salary adjustments mean we fall further behind.

We understand the budgetary challenges the administrators face at each institution. But the Nevada Legislature clearly established that they expect NSHE institutions to share in these costs through student fee revenue from now on. Significant changes in NSHE budget and spending practices are unavoidable. Accepting a substantially reduced COLA rate this year, allows administrators to just kick that can down the road instead of facing that reality now. 

We encourage all NFA members to carry this message to the Board of Regents at each of their meetings until the issue is resolved. We cannot wait for a future meeting when the FY25 COLA is agendized for action. We need to make sure they hear us at every meeting while they are considering how to deal with the issue. If you can, please try to appear at the quarterly BOR meeting and make a public comment, which is scheduled to start within 45 minutes after the meeting starts at 8:30 AM on Friday, September 8. You may also submit written comments prior to the meeting through the NSHE website. Although the meeting will be held at TMCC in Reno, video conference connections will be available at the System Office in Las Vegas and at Great Basin College in Elko. We can make a difference when we all show up with a compelling message.

In Solidarity,

Jim New
NFA President 2023-25

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