The Nevada Board of Regents last week heard about potential plans for how campuses will deal with cost of living adjustments approved by the Nevada Legislature.
An error by the Legislature in 2019 means the Nevada System of Higher Education has to come up with money out of its own budgets to fund COLAs proposed at the Legislature, according to NSHE officials.
Higher education faculty said “severe consequences” are possible if the COLAs are not fully funded. A difference of 65% or 80% funding, due to the legislative error, however, means campuses will have to foot the bill for staff, faculty and administrator salaries adjustments.
“This is a unique moment in the system’s history, I think,” NSHE’s acting Chancellor Dale Erquiaga told the regents. “I am sharing the weight of the work that the staff and the presidents are doing at the legislature. I need your thinking, we need your feedback, we need your support.”
He said he asked campus presidents to prepare contingencies if an amendment that would close the budget gap does not get passed.
“We are trying the best ways to fund it all,” he added.
Andrew Clinger, NSHE’s chief financial officer, said the legislature used to fund COLAs for all state agencies at 80%.
“What happened in 2019 as they calculated our share of the COLA, there was an error made in that calculation,” he said. “And so suddenly, it was 80% of 80%. Literally, somebody made an error in a spreadsheet and applied 80% to a spreadsheet that already had 80% applied to it.”
University of Nevada, Reno President, and former Governor, Brian Sandoval said the faculty and staff deserve the COLAs, but cuts are possible if the unfunded mandate by the legislature passes.
“There are no good decisions here,” he said. “You have to look at eliminating positions or … as we’ve all talked about this horrible possibility of having to increase fees. There really is no other place to go.”
The board took no action on the budget.
The Nevada Faculty Alliance, after the meeting, issued a petition for faculty, staff, students and community supporters to urge the governor and legislators to “fully fund the COLAs.”
“Funding NSHE COLAs at 64% was a math error from 2019—80% is the standard budgeting amount for all state agencies,” the petition notes. “Governor Lombardo supports restoring funding for NSHE COLAs to 80% for the next biennium, but legislative leadership has only budgeted 66% leaving a $26M gap.”
More than 1,000 people have signed the petition.