By Selwyn Harris
A proposed 30 percent budget cut for Great Basin College GBC could spell disaster for students and faculty members where the school plays an important role in their lives up and down the Silver State.
Opponents say a proposed funding formula would force the school to deeply cut its budget over the next two years, which would amount to more than a $4 million loss and could essentially cripple the college.
That revelation got the undivided attention of the Pahrump Town Board during their most recent meeting.
Board members discussed approving a joint resolution with cities, counties, and local governments across the state to support post secondary education services provided by the college to residents in rural Nevada.
The resolution was eventually passed by the board.
When news of possible budget cuts was revealed during last year’s legislative session, GBC officials formed what was called an “informal” committee to brainstorm for solutions, alternatives, and funding options.
Pahrump Town Board member Dr. Tom Waters remarked on how GBC plays a big role in rural communities throughout the state.
“The Town of Pahrump supports post secondary educational opportunities for the benefit of our citizens as well as economic development, businesses, and industry. Many citizens due to distance and financial restraints will be unable to attain higher education opportunities without the continuation of innovative programs for learning provided by Great Basin College.
“The town acknowledges the great economic contributions of metropolitan areas in our state while stating that the preliminary results of an internal study indicates that rural Nevada contributions to the State General Fund are comparable to metropolitan areas on a per capita basis,” he said.
During an Elko County Commission meeting, former Nevada Assemblyman John Carpenter said the proposed cuts would have a devastating affect on how the college operates.
He suggested that five counties in northern Nevada who support the college are for the most part providing a larger amount of cash per capita to the state’s general fund due to all of the mining taxes.
He also said that should be considered when the Nevada System of Higher Education and the state allots funds.
“We are probably paying our fair share. If we’re paying our fair share as Elko County taxpayers, then we should get our fair share back. If it shows that we are not paying our fair share then we are going to have to come up with another idea,” he said.
Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents member Kevin Melcher attended the meeting.
Melcher suggested that fairness in terms of funding education in the Silver State is a slippery slope.
“It’s kind of funny that we are saying our fair share because that’s what Las Vegas has been saying for years. That they’re not getting their fair share and now they’re looking to get their fair share, thus the formula.
“I guess my comment from regent’s meetings is that there is no such thing as fair. Fair is when everyone gets what everyone wants,” he said.
In an email to the Pahrump Valley Times last week, GBC Chief Development Officer John Rice noted that the budget cut proposal was supported by Melcher.
“Regent Kevin Melcher, who represents our service area, voted in favor of the cuts to GBC’s funding. Our President Mark Curtis will fight the proposal,” he said.
Town Board Chair Vicky Parker said she and Waters learned more about the plight GBC is facing after attending several GBC advisory board meetings.
“The cutbacks that they had last year were severe and it’s hard for me to believe that they can add another 30 percent on top of that. We had classes here with live instructors and now the bulk of the classes at Great Basin College are distance learning out of Elko.
“With 30 percent in cutbacks, Pahrump is the newest campus for Great Basin so you know where they are going to do the cutting first. I think that this resolution is extremely important and I hope that the governor and legislature listens to us on that,” she said.
Elko City Manager Curtis Calder said on Tuesday that Great Basin College is a crucial component to the entire Elko community and economy.
“The folks up here in Elko are pretty disappointed because we have been dealing with budget cuts for several years now and this will make it much more harder to offer the services to our community here locally. I’m sure it will also have an impact on the Pahrump area as well.
“I think there are some efforts up here within the Elko area to see what can be done if anything about those cuts because we are going to have a real difficult time maintaining the level of service that has been offered in the past,” he said.
Elko Assistant City Manager Delmo Andreozzi provided a personal anecdote on the school.
“I know personally dozens of people and myself included who have taken courses at that college while we were working to improve and better prepare ourselves for advancement with our careers.
“My wife earned two degrees. She is a nurse and was able to do that here because of the college. It is a great piece of our infrastructure here. Those kinds of cuts can have some pretty dramatic effects on this college,” he said.
GBC is the only college available for rural students who cannot afford to attend urban colleges in northern Nevada.
According the city’s website, Elko has a population of roughly 18,400 residents who maintain a median age of 31.
Nevada lawmakers will eventually make their decision on the proposed budget cut during the 2013 legislative session early next year.