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Carson City Report: Higher ed budget closes... sort of

19 May 2011 2:08 PM | Deleted user
The closing of the budget for the Nevada System of Higher Education by the joint budget committees in the state legislature yesterday turned out to be a partial closing, with much decided, and one major issue left hanging – how the state will generate the revenue it needs to fund this essential investment in higher education.

Generally NSHE fared well with the decisions, with $100 million in General Fund dollars added back to NSHE budgets. This includes the $20 million recommended by the Governor. These funds would be distributed using the proportional distribution figures included in the Governor’s budget, which means the funds would be allocated following a flat enrollment assumption that relies on current base budget figures. There were a couple of additional small increases as equity adjustments: $1.5 million to CSN and $600,000-plus to TMCC. (This is on top of the $100 million, and came from a major correction concerning funds for health coverage part-time faculty, mainly in the Medical School.)

Legislators approved a key part of NSHE's four-point plan, its request to “smooth” the budget cut over two years. This will have the effect of leaving the base budget at the end of the second year about $35 million higher for the System than what the governor originally  proposed. One major change from NSHE's proposal was the rejection of a second-year, 13-percent tuition and fee increase. This decision will force NSHE institutions to find an extra $22 million the second year of the biennium – funds that will apparently have to come from capitol improvement funds on campuses or some other source. A decision was made to allow retention of 100 percent of the tuition and fee increases to count toward the general fund allocation for NSHE.

The committees voted to suspend the funding formulas for the next biennium again, and also to have another interim study to revamp the current formulas. Chancellor Klaich pledged to send the committee a copy of the internal study that the System recently conducted. A vote was taken to consolidate a number of accounts into the two universities' instructional accounts, and the main System Administration account. This means that the regents and institutional administrations will be able to mange available funding better, and it takes the Legislature out of some specific funding decisions. The committees also approved allowing movement of funds among those remaining budget accounts, with the approval of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

New space that has been completed recently on the campuses was added to that included in the formulas for O&M, which was a good result. And the transfer of the Fire Science Academy to the Military was approved, with implications of some funding for UNR when this is finalized by Congress.

Thursday morning, Senator Hosrford clarified that the nearly $120 million of the proposed property tax transfer from the two large counties to the two universities, which the Governor had proposed, would be replaced with state general fund dollars, in the version of the budget that goes to the floor of the Assembly and then the Senate to be voted on.

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