University chancellor talks tough against proposed cuts

Not only will the state’s higher education system not accept the 36 percent budget cut proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons, it won’t accept any cuts, the chancellor told a crowd of hundreds Monday night.

“We’re not in the compromising business. We’re not in the negotiating business,” Chancellor Jim Rogers said.

More than 500 people crowded into a University of Nevada, Las Vegas ballroom Monday night for a town hall meeting about the proposed budget cuts.

Gibbons, responding to a downturn in revenues, proposed cuts across state government earlier this month. Higher education would bear the brunt of the cuts.

But Rogers and others, including the presidents of four Southern Nevada institutions and the chairman of the system’s governing board, said higher education is already underfunded.

“It is not a proposal that makes any sense,” UNLV President David Ashley said. “I basically reject it as a starting point.”

He urged those present to pressure legislators.

College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards said the governor’s budget would provide enough money to educate just 12,000 of its full-time students.

The school is the largest in the state, with about 42,000 students. Many are part-timers, and CSN teaches the equivalent of about 21,000 full-time students.

Questions from the crowd touched on a proposed 6 percent salary reduction for state workers and how to fix the tax structure in a state long-acknowledged as too dependent on sales and gaming taxes.

Patricia Moore, who said she was a nurse at University Medical Center, expressed concern about how the system will educate more nurses.

Rogers told her that getting into specifics such as which programs might be cut did not matter. Gibbons’ cuts are so large, he said, they would destroy the entire system.

UNLV student Chris Belcher said his graduation has twice been put off by budget cuts because classes he needs to graduate have been canceled.

“If they don’t stop these budget cuts,” he said, “I will have no hope.”

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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