NSHE rightly targets administrative bloat

Labor Day is an appropriate time to ponder the job perks you, the taxpayer, provide for government employees but can never hope to have for yourself.

Fortunately, the Nevada Board of Regents is using this week to consider that imbalance as well, and perhaps start to correct it.

The Nevada System of Higher Education got a whole bunch of new money from the 2015 legislative session, including funds for a UNLV medical school. But regents, system officials and campus presidents want even more money in the years to come. UNLV and UNR are especially keen on gaining more state support for their pursuit of very-high-research status.

But Board of Regents Chairman Rick Trachok of Reno recognizes that the system can’t credibly seek more taxpayer support without pursuing more efficiencies and cost savings. So, with the support of the presidents of the state’s colleges and universities, he is boldly going where few regents have gone before. He is trying to make it possible to lay off administrative faculty in a timely fashion.

However, NSHE can be brought in line with private-sector practices only for future hires, which means current ivory-tower types will retain the kind of job protections that no business could afford to provide.

Regents this week will introduce an amendment to the system code that will allow officials to terminate administrative faculty hired on or after Dec. 15 with 30 days notice if those hires have less than two years of service, and with 45 days notice if they have more than two years of service.

If that code change is approved, at some point, years down the road, campus presidents and NSHE officials will be able to shed nonperformers and reorganize relatively quickly. Until then, they’re stuck with the current code, which is designed to make it impossible to reduce the system workforce in a timely fashion and thereby discourage all cost-cutting initiatives.

About 900 NSHE administrative professionals hired before March 1, 2005, must receive one year’s notice of termination. Worse, as Trachok explained during a Tuesday meeting with the Review-Journal’s editorial board, that notice must be provided by the end of a fiscal year. If notice is provided after June 30, termination can’t take effect for another year.

Those hired on or after March, 1, 2005 — about 1,800 administrative employees — enjoy largely the same protections. Which means that each July 1, all those administrators throw one heckuva party because they know their jobs are safe — no matter how they perform, no matter the state’s economic conditions — for at least one year and at most two years. Woo hoo!

Who else gets that kind of notice? No one.

As a briefing for regents supporting the change explains, “Employees who have been given notice of termination are likely not to be as effective during the notice time period.” Thus, no one is ever provided with notice.

Regents will have a tough case for more taxpayer support, especially as long as the higher education system is obligated to carry so much administrative bloat it can’t shed. But Trachok’s plan is a step in the right direction.

NewsFeed returns

NewsFeed, the breakfast discussion series produced by the Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, returns Tuesday, Sept. 22, with a conversation about the future of transportation in Las Vegas.

I’ll moderate a discussion that covers Interstate 11 and other highway upgrades; mass transit improvements; and the possibility of new Strip transit, such as a subway.

The panel of experts includes:

— Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

— Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West and UNLV professor of urban affairs.

— David Knowles, northwest transit lead for engineering firm CH2M.

The event runs from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Four Season Las Vegas, inside Mandalay Bay on the Strip. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased through www.lvchamber.com or by calling 702-641-5822. I hope to see you there.

— Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Resuming Sept. 14, listen to him Mondays at 10 a.m. on “Live and Local — Now!” with Kevin Wall on KBET 790 AM.

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