Funding inequity

The “new normal” in Nevada isn’t limited to slower economic and population growth. Southern Nevada has more political power than ever before, and while Clark County lawmakers are far from a unified front in Carson City, baby steps are being taken to erase longstanding inequities in regional funding.

The Las Vegas Valley has subsidized rural areas and Washoe County for too long. The first front to receive a badly needed correction: higher education. A new funding formula for the state’s public colleges and universities shifts more state support to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the College of Southern Nevada at the expense of rural colleges.

This hasn’t gone over well with Western Nevada College President Carol Lucey. WNC’s general fund support was reduced 8.2 percent from last year to this year, with more cuts coming in the next budget cycle. In July, she announced she would retire at the end of this fiscal year, or perhaps sooner, rather than be a party to budget cuts at the college’s Carson City, Fallon and Douglas County campuses and other rural sites.

She should have called it a career, right then and there. Her official response was to submit what amounted to a protest budget, sans cuts, that ignores the Nevada System of Higher Education’s new funding reality. And members of the Board of Regents called her on it at Thursday’s meeting in Elko.

“What I’m hearing today is a refusal to respond to what I think is a request that is reasonable by the chancellor and a direction by the board,” Las Vegas Regent Michael Wixom said. Reno Regent Rick Trachok noted that if every other state institution had followed Ms. Lucey’s lead, “we would be in quite a state today.”

Ms. Lucey said her strategic plan was to ask rural counties for a bailout. In other words, a prayer.

“So you expect the counties to just come forward with tax revenue within the next 18 months?” Mr. Wixom asked.

“I don’t know,” Ms. Lucey answered.

Pick your favorite prison assault analogy, and it pretty much describes what Clark County has endured for decades at the hands of Northern Nevada lawmakers. Those days are done. Ms. Lucey is in denial.

Her stunt is a setback for the system’s fiscal planning and a slap to taxpayers everywhere. She’s not some student waving a poster at a demonstration. She’s a college president. But not for long.

If Ms. Lucey won’t quit, effective immediately, the Board of Regents should fire her.

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