Saturday, March 12, 2011

Board of Regents Day 2: NFA state exec committee calls upon System to undertake transparent budget planning

During day 2 of the March Board of Regents meeting held at Western Nevada College, Nevada Faculty Alliance State Secretary and NSC Chapter President Angela Brommel made a request to the Board for financial balance statements during public comment.

Brommel testified that the NFA would be sending a letter to the regents addressing the sacrifices that faculty,staff and students have already made and urging the Regents to begin a transparent and thorough process of strategic planning to restructure its budget in light of impending reductions of $162 million in state support.

"A budget is a plan -- it's a little hope, a little fear," she said, "but a balance statement reveals the truth of how we are living."

Brommel testified that both System and campus current financial statements should be disclosed since the last posted NSHE statement was as of June 30th, 2010. She concluded by asking that before faculty on campuses are asked to engage in further rounds of curricular review that would eliminate dozens of degree programs that seve thousands of students and employ hundreds of faculty -- or discussion about the even more dire but perhaps necessary step of declaring exigency -- the Regents first need to have a fuller discussion about the System's current and projected spending priorities, based on up-to-date balance statements and not just budget projections.

The Board made almost no reference to spending priorities, and undertook no discussion at all of projected savings or costs of various actions it considered yesterday, before voting against a proposed administrative streamlining proposed by the Chancellor. Board members devoted almost no discussion to the plans presented by campus presidents (in varying degrees of specificity) to lay off hundreds and faculty and staff, and to eliminate dozens of degree programs statewide serving thousands of students, before opting, in the words of one Regent, to declare that "the institutions can absorb these cuts."

The meeting then ended, leaving the entire System unclear about what if any plan exists at a System level to absorb these cuts that would result from the Governor's budget proposal which includes a massive, permanent reduction in state support for Higher Education.


  1. I guess I don't understand. I am a faculty member at UNR. I didn't see the motion to avoid campus closures as negative or implying that cuts would be easy. While closures or mergers might slightly reduce the cuts at other institutions, the impact would be devastating for the closed or merged institutions. There are no good options. I also felt that there was clarity that the system was letting the individual institutions deal with the problems as they decide. I am glad that they didn't impose their own solutions. I still hope that sufficient pressure will convince legislators to not try to balance the budget through cuts alone.

  2. A balance statement only indicates what the current assets and liabilities are. It doesn't show whether liabilities are sustainable, nor does it indicate how much an organization can spend. I am not sure what is motivating Brommel's comment. On the one hand it may reflect the current mood that "we are broke" because of our liabilities and debt. I think that Michael Moore's recent speech in wisconsin declaring "We aren't broke" is an excellent refutation of that argument at all levels. It is also possible that Brommel is implying that the balance sheet is better than we know and we don't have to make such deep cuts. A budget is a plan for how current revenues and expenditures are matched. It is a projection and should not be tied to the balance sheet except as the latter provides a buffer or requires additional revenues to repay liabilities.