By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Brian Sandoval, the University of Nevada, Reno president, said on Nevada Newsmakers last week that the school’s top priority for the 2023 session of the Nevada Legislature will be restoring a $12-million budget cut that the school was forced to swallow because of the pandemic.
“That (restoring the cuts) is going to be the priority, going into the next session, to at least put us back to where we were two years ago,” Sandoval, a former Nevada governor, told host Sam Shad.
Nevada’s overall higher education system suffered a 12-percent cut due to the pandemic, Sandoval said. The cuts impacted Nevada’s higher education campuses across the state and that restoring those losses, “happens to be a system priority,” Sandoval said.
“I think I speak for the other institutions in higher education that they have been affected the same,” Sandoval said.
For UNR, those cuts amounted to $12 million, he said.
“We all know what we went through with the pandemic and as a result of that, our economy was hit harder than any other state in the country,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval’s revelation on legislative priorities comes as Nevada’s System of Higher Education struggles with serious fiscal issues. The system is $1.4 million over-budget now with no way to balance it before the end of the fiscal year in June, a leading NSHE official recently told the Board of Regents.
Part of that problem comes from a $610,000 severance package approved by regents for former Chancellor Melody Rose, ending her tumultuous 19-month tenure that saw her battle some regents, according to the Nevada Independent.
UNR’s fiscal issues, however, have been eased somewhat by federal-stimulus money, although those funds cannot be included in future budget projections, said Sandoval.
“A portion of that was restored through federal money,” Sandoval said. “We were required that if we used that money, to fill certain positions, which we did. But that is not part of our base budget anymore. So one of our requests is to ensure that that piece (restoration of cuts) is in our base budget.”
As far as one-shot funding proposals, Sandoval hopes the Legislature will help fund a new Life Sciences building on the Reno campus. The current Life Sciences structure is 65 years old and no longer meets the needs the UNR growing student enrollment, Sandoval said.
“We are seeking a new Life Sciences building,” Sandoval said. “We’d love to have that to really modernize our facilities on campus.”
The 2021 Legislature (Nevada’s lawmakers meet in regular sessions every other year) denied the request for the Life Sciences building.
The school also plans for private donations to help pay for the building, according to the RGJ’s Siobhan McAndrew. The overall cost would be about $94 million, McAndrew reported.
Sandoval sees a combination of NSHE lobbying lawmakers both for individual institutions and for the higher-ed system as a whole.
“UNLV will have different priorities. Nevada State College will have different priorities. I think it will be a combination of both. But you will see real unity when it comes to restoring our budget,” he said.