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Cuts may close Douglas college campus

Scott Neuffer

The 679 students who attend Western Nevada College’s Douglas campus will have to go elsewhere if Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed 8 percent budget cut for higher education takes effect.

“Simply put, a lot of them will not be going to college,” said Richard Kale, coordinator of the Douglas campus. “Fifteen-hundred residents of Douglas go to Western Nevada College. The ones who can go to Carson already do.”

The governor’s office has requested state agencies make 8 percent budget cuts. Budgets for K-12 education, child welfare, public safety, corrections, judiciary and state salaries are exempt.

According to a report released by Western Nevada College president Carol Lucey, the state would save $84,000 for the fiscal year of 2008-09 by closing the Douglas campus.

“Last spring, we froze positions to prepare for a budget cut,” Kale said. “In August, we cut our operating budget by 2 percent. In October, we tightened even more and prepared for a 5-percent cut. But an 8 percent cut? It’s going to destroy us.”

Kale said Tuesday it wasn’t fair that other agencies were exempt from the cut and that higher education would bear the brunt of a shortfall in tax revenue.

“We’re talking about economic development, about keeping kids in Douglas County and Northern Nevada,” he said.

Kale said he was concerned for the 40 to 50 pre-nursing students who live in the area, work at the Carson Valley Medical Center and the Minden Medical Center, and take classes at the Douglas campus.

“I don’t think they’ll be able to get to Carson,” he said.

Besides a possible shortage in educated professionals, Kale worried about losing something the community built together.

“The people, the businesses of Douglas, donated time and money to make this extension possible,” he said.

The school building, known as Bently Hall, was built in 1997 with $2.3 million in private contributions from individuals and businesses, including Bently Nevada’s donation of 10 acres of land and a grant from the Nevada Legislature.

“Look at this wall,” Kale said, pointing to the names of contributors painted on a wall inside the school.

He listed donations made by the Washoe Tribe, Park Cattle, Harvey’s and Harrah’s casinos, Carson Valley Inn, Topaz Lodge, among others. He mentioned individuals including late Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen and Andy and Ruth Popa who personally donated money for the campus.

“Andy passed away, but the school has a scholarship in his name,” Kale said. “I live in Carson City. I’ll keep my job. But for the last five years, I’ve been investing my heart and soul down here in Douglas. I have friends, grandchildren down here. I’m thinking about their futures, about what opportunities they’ll have.”

Minden industrialist Don Bently, after whom the facility is named, said Tuesday he doubted the campus would be closed and expressed faith in school officials to solve the problem.

“That Carol Lucey is a smart lady,” he said.

To contact the governor’s office about the proposed cut, call Gov. Jim Gibbons at (775) 684-5670, fax him at (775) 684-5683, or e-mail dcherry@gov.nv.gov.


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