The Rural Factor

— by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

The ‘Rural Factor’ and the cooperative extension are prime examples of what’s at stake for the 15 rural counties in the 78th legislative session. If there’s a way for Clark and Washoe to zero out budget lines that fund the rurals’ unique needs, no one – most notably the governor – seems to give a thought to the consequences. The metro counties just take what they want because they can.

Rural Nevada is represented exclusively by Republicans, who now control both sides of the legislature. These have never been partisan issues, and our legislative representatives need to use their intra-party clout to restore these budget cuts.

All this is just a warmup for the water wars still to come. All 17 counties have less than 10 inches of precip a year, but only the rurals have any ground water left, water needed for AG, mining and environmental protection. But it looks very different from the state’s population centers. As Harry Reid said on his last stop in the rurals, if it comes down to a choice between growing alfalfa in White Pine and flushing toilets in Clark, he knows which side he would come down on. As do we.

WNC and GBC is receiving a lump of coal

Lahontan Valley News editorial published Jan 28, 2015

In the governor’s State of the State speech that outlined his education spending, two stepchildren of Nevada’s education funding received a lump of coal.

Because of a revision in the funding formula, the rural factor for community colleges in Fallon, Minden and Elko, for example, was eliminated. Local officials and some — not all — regents worked unsuccessfully to restore the Rural Factor, a formula based on lower enrollment to teacher ratios based on part-time faculty.

Not only were lawmakers asleep at their desks when the Rural Factor was eliminated years ago, but a majority of regents allowed the factor, which was created by former Fallon state Sens. Carl Dodge and Virgil Getto in the 1970s, to disappear without fanfare.

In 2013, Gov. Brian Sandoval and the legislature permitted “bridge funding” to help the community colleges transition to the new formula proposed more than two years ago.

Regents received $4.95 million over the biennium — $1.95 million for WNC (Western Nevada College) and $3 million for GBC (Great Basin College).

Chancellor Dan Klaich asked for another “bridge funding” measure of the same amount to help WNC and GBC during the next biennium, but the governor cut the request.

“We have requested you give these colleges two more years to get to the level of funding fully implied by the formula simply because the drop off is too steep for them to make that jump in two years,” Klaich told Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees last week.

And let’s examine funding for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), which had its budget and programs whacked more than 30 percent during the dark years of the Great Recession from 2009-2013. It would be important to see funding restored to UNCE’s budget since the governor has highly touted agriculture, the third largest industry in the state.

As we discussed in a prior editorial, the governor proposes money for a medical program at UNLV and $13 million for the Desert Research Institute, proposals that could either be delayed or reduced to provide bridge funding to WNC and GBC.

For example, during the next five years, we see more technical, advanced types of jobs coming into the state than those coming into the medical field. One economic development authority predicts as many as 51,000 jobs could be coming to Nevada within the decade.

Since additional money for WNC and GBC has been removed, then the Assembly and Senate must add bridge funding to ensure WNC and GBC have a major role in shaping Nevada’s economic future, not being pushed to the back of the room like some illegitimate, red-headed stepchildren.