Regents ask colleges to find money to fully fund raises after Legislature allocates $6.4 million less than enough

The Nevada Board of Regents is directing college presidents to find ways to accomplish 3 percent raises for faculty and staff in the coming fiscal year, even though the Legislature allocated $6.4 million less than needed to do so.

The board voted 7-5 on Tuesday to make the directive and have presidents report back in December on their plans. Regents are giving institutions the option to implement a hiring freeze, cut their operating budget or reallocate student fees.

Opponents included Regent Rick Trachok, who said he thought it would be setting a bad precedent to cut from other areas to effectuate raises. Regent Laura Perkins, who voted in favor of the raises, asked that adjusting student fee revenue be the last resort for college leaders.

The fact that the Nevada System of Higher Education had a shortfall in the money needed to enact raises promised to state employees by Gov. Steve Sisolak came to light on the final night of the legislative session, but it was never addressed. The governor’s office later said that it noticed a miscalculation in March and brought it to the attention of legislative fiscal staff, but the allocation was not changed.

Emails between NSHE Chief Financial Officer Andrew Clinger and Susan Brown of the Governor’s Finance Office show that as of May 21, with two weeks left in the session, NSHE still didn’t know exactly how much of the money the state was allocating to raises would flow to the system.

Clinger told regents that the governor’s and Legislature’s staffs now say that they are funding the raises in line with how they fund other agencies that are supported by more than just the state general fund — partially, with the agency expected to make up the difference. He said he understood their reasoning but does not agree with it.

Although NSHE had previously floated the idea of requesting money for the raises from the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee, General Counsel Joe Reynolds told regents that he believed that would be an unlikely source because of a law prohibiting allocations from a contingency account to pay for raises.

Several members of NSHE staff and faculty testified in public comment to support a raise but express frustration with the Legislature for not allocating more to accomplish it. They included Douglas Unger, chair of the Council of Faculty Senate Chairs, who argued that “careless accounting should never become permanent policy.”

Janis McKay, chair of the UNLV Faculty Senate, said faculty have felt “demoralized” by the demise of SB214, a bill that would have implemented a permanent system of raises for professors but died in the Legislature, as well as the recently revealed shortfall in funds for raises.

“Regardless of how these issues came about, they have created a perception of state indifference toward higher education in general, faculty and research in particular,” she said.