By Stephanie Cochrane Posted February 18, 2009
There will be “cuts, merges and perhaps eliminations,” said Reno Senator Randolph Townsend to the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ) of Nevada’s budget problem. In his second State of the State address, Governor Jim Gibbons’ proposed a state budget cut that would reduce the state workforce by about 6 percent, including about 375 layoffs, and eliminate 1,052 vacant positions, while also reducing state workers’ salaries by 6%. Humboldt County School District Superintendent Mike Bumgartner said, “We have to find a way to meet the budget shortfall somehow, but for teachers and state employees it’s kind of a discriminatory action. That (solution) should be a last desperate action.”
In cutting state spending, Gibbons said he put a priority on protecting Nevada’s needy from diminished services and keeping kindergarten through 12th-grade education strong. “I will not unfairly balance this budget on the backs of those in our society who can least afford to shoulder the burden,” Gibbons said. Yet, when there are any cuts, the effects resonate to impact all areas of society. In response to Gibbon’s proposal, HCSD created a survey for its staff in regards to safely addressing possible budget cuts. The survey addressed four issues; what programs or positions are crucial, where might reductions have a lesser impact, possible ideas, and any other comments about the budget reduction. Results were Friday, Feb. 13 for HCSD staff.
Mrs. McGibbon, a chemistry teacher at Lowry said, “Instead of spreading the cuts evenly, he is just taking one segment and having them bear the burden.” The budget cuts would not affect Lowry as much as it would higher education, but the science department is already in pretty bad shape. “Basically we would have fewer labs, fewer demonstrations, we couldn’t do the consumables, it just wouldn’t be good,” McGibbon added.
Gibbon’s largest cut would be in the higher education system. In an interview with the RGJ, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said, “We might just as well close the campuses down.” Gibbons’ plan to cut UNR funding by $76 million annually in 2009-11 will have a high toll on Nevada’s youth. “I don’t think that higher education would survive that kind of cut. I think it’s completely unrealistic,” said Bumgartner.
In his speech, Gibbons presented modest justification for cutting more than a third of the university system’s budget, saying only that taxpayers would continue to finance a somewhat higher fraction of the university funding than the national standard. “It’s such a short-sighted view; education is what economic development is all about. If they cut the education budget, they will attract fewer young people and retain fewer people, so it’s a disaster,” said McGibbon.
Lowry junior, Courtney Hammond said, “Education is probably the worst place to cut funding; two years from now I’ll be attending college, and if it happens to be in Nevada, my education may not be as good as it could have been in years past. Cutting funding is essentially stunting the educational growth of the people who will soon be leaving the state or even the country.”
With so much emphasis on the education system, Gibbons changed the focus of his speech to end on a more positive note. The RGJ reported that Gibbons said the state’s renewable energy potential could help see it out of the recession. “Northern Nevada is our geothermal capital and southern Nevada is our solar capital and everywhere in between we can harness our wind resources,” Gibbons continued, “our opportunities in this area are endless.”