ELKO – In response to the economic decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents has approved a budget reduction proposal as requested by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
The cuts, which will total up to $124.7 million over a two-year period, cover Great Basin College and other institutions in the system.
President Joyce Helens said she is “confident” that GBC can move forward without cutting positions.
“I am really proud to say, because of us working together, that we have planned no layoffs currently and that we are continuously working on keeping momentum, quality, and serving students in rural and frontier Nevada and I am confident that we will be able to do that in this changing landscape.”
GBC was impacted by previous budget reductions, impacts of a new funding formula’s implementation, and a previous $1.4 million cut in the current biennium. As a result, the college cut more than 80 positions.
“These additional budget reductions put significant strain on college resources and reserve,” Helens said. “I’ve been meeting with teams at the college daily in different configurations and at least twice a week with larger teams that include leadership from faculty, classified, deans and vice presidents.”
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Helens said thanks to an increase in enrollment, the college is “stable.”
“I think it’s important to say that Great Basin College is in a stable position currently because of process improvements and increased enrollments that you’ve heard about previously. This is in spite of losing a third of our workforce since the last recession. So I’m sensitive to this and the fragility of our new sustainably,” she said.
“Now, what we have included in our plan, because I believe we’re in a stable place, are reductions resulting from vacant position savings, some operating budget reductions, and transferring some expenditures to non-state funds.”
“The Foundation offered us assistance in the current year deficit, and we did not have to take them up on it. So in that case, now very fortunately, that assistance could be available to use as well as institutional reserves which I prefer not to touch,” Helens added.
In March, the coronavirus pandemic moved live instruction online, sending faculty and staff to work from home through the summer semester.
“Our first priority is, of course, the safety of our students and staff, and also to maintain the integrity of Great Basin College instruction and the ability to carry out our mission,” Helens said.
The Office of the Governor asked for budget reduction proposals from all state agencies, including NSHE, that show a 4 percent cut in Fiscal Year 2020, and a 6 percent, 10, and 14 percent reduction in Fiscal Year 2021.
Chancellor Thom Reilly said that similar to the economic slowdown during the Great Recession (2007 -2009), NSHE has turned to a “shared sacrifice” model when considering this budget reduction.
“The weeks and months ahead will be a difficult burden for all of us to shoulder, however, if we share this burden the individual sacrifice can be lessened,” Reilly said.