CARSON CITY — Nevada teenagers who ride and rope in high school rodeo events said Thursday that fewer students would represent the state in national competitions if lawmakers approve Gov. Jim Gibbon’s proposed budget cuts for the state Agriculture Department.
General fund contributions to the agency’s budget would be reduced by 39 percent to $4.8 million, down from $7.9 million. The current staffing level of 101 would be cut by nearly a quarter.
Under the proposed budget, a $20,000 fund that helps the Nevada State High School Rodeo Association would be eliminated. The association treasurer, Jane Capurro, and five students who were headed to a rodeo in Pahrump stopped by to tell a joint Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee that the money helps students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to compete at a national level.
"Not having a full Nevada rodeo team at the national finals would be like not having a U.S. team at the Olympics," Capurro said.
Student Grant Denny said the high school rodeo is about more than just competition.
"It keeps us out of trouble, and it keeps us in school. It keeps our grades good, keeps us practicing a lot, keeps us training and keeps our families together," said Denny, a sophomore at Silver State High School, an online school based in Carson City.
Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, called the high school rodeos an "important tradition" that keeps alive "old West" activity in Nevada.
"We need to find a way to support the continuation of these traditions," Hogan said, adding, "I’d hate to see them pass from the scene."
The budget also would eliminate five of 12 Agriculture Department staffers who deal with animals that pose threats to people, such as coyotes, mountain lions and badgers; and birds that pose a threat to airplane safety, department chief Tony Lesperance said.
"We’ll continue to protect to the best of our ability the urban areas and especially the airports where we remove geese. Geese have a tendency to knock airplanes down," Lesperance said.
Asked by lawmakers how he would cope with employee reductions, Lesperance said, "I’m not sure how the staff is going to get the job done, but we will get it done and that’s the bottom line."
"We’re having people wear lots more hats than they used to wear, and having them work lots more hours than they used to work, and just try harder," Lesperance said.