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Error leaves NSHE budget $6.4M short, workers to get smaller raises

CARSON CITY — The Nevada System of Higher Education says it won’t be able to fully fund a 3 percent cost of living adjustment for its workers after an error from the governor’s finance office left its budget $6.4 million short.

The error could mean that higher education workers will get a cost of living raise of only 2.4 percent over the next two years, as opposed to the 3 percent raise that all other state employees will receive as part of the promise Gov. Steve Sisolak made during his State of the State address in January.

System Chancellor Thom Reilly said in a statement Tuesday that the Governor’s finance office alerted higher education officials to the errors Monday — the final day of the Legislature.

“We immediately reported it to legislative leadership,” Reilly said, adding that officials estimate the system is roughly $6.4 million short of the roughly $31.8 million required to cover the raise.

But according to the governor’s office, that calculating error was brought to the Legislature’s attention nearly three months ago.

In March, the Governor’s finance office realized that it had miscalculated the amount of salary adjustment funds needed for the pay raise and then flagged it for Legislature staff, according to the governor’s office.

The governor’s office said that legislative staff responded in mid-May and said that they would be funding the budget with the miscalculation included.

But Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said Tuesday that she was not made aware of the error until the final hours of the Legislature, which adjourned near midnight Monday, when she received a text from Reilly.

By that time, the budgets for higher education and those pay raises had already been closed, and any additional money that could have been used to fill that gap had already been appropriated.

Woodhouse added that she has “full trust” in her legislative fiscal staff.

What happens next is unclear.

The Board of Regents will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday and Friday in Reno, where it is expected to discuss the budget hole and possible avenues for remedying it.

Reilly said that NSHE plans “to work with the Governor’s office and Legislature to attempt to address the deficit.”

UPDATE: NSHE provided the following statement Wednesday night saying that they will be providing the full 3 percent raise to higher education workers.

“After discussions with the Governor’s office and legislative staff, we understand that the amount funded was the result of using a different calculation method. NSHE and its Board will work to ensure employees receive their three percent COLAs as recommended by the governor and approved by the Legislature,” NSHE said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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