Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada)
BYLINE: Richard Lake
The streets of North Las Vegas soon might have fewer police officers and firefighters to watch over them after the City Council voted Tuesday night to slash the city’s budget by $33 million.
Pink slips could start going out next week to up to 100 North Las Vegas Police Department employees, 57 Fire Department employees, and 60 other city employees. In addition to adopting the budget with cuts, the council also authorized the city manager to initiate the layoffs.
“There’s not one City Council member up here who wants to lay anyone off,” Mayor Shari Buck said before the unanimous vote. “We don’t want to lay you off.”
It was unclear whether the pink slips will be followed by actual layoffs.
City officials have been trying for months to get unions representing employees to agree to concessions; mainly, to forgo raises once again. The unions, which represent police, firefighters and municipal employees, have refused.
On Tuesday, Teamsters Local 14, which represents about 500 city workers, notified City Manager Tim Hacker that they would be willing to negotiate.
“We’re willing to come back to the table and give them that help,” Steve Harney, the union’s vice president and director of operations, said after the meeting. He said union members were unwilling to do so before the deadline because they wanted to see what police and firefighters unions would do.
Leonard Cardinale, president of the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association, which represents Police Department brass, told the City Council his union members have not rejected any offers from the city yet. He said the city has a history of simply asking the unions for concessions, however, as a solution to all its budget problems.
“There seems to be no plan,” he told the council. “After four years of concessions, no plan but to keep coming back to the unions.”
He clarified afterward that the union was still negotiating, saying, “We’re always willing to talk with the city.”
The city has a June 1 deadline to submit a final budget to the state for the next fiscal year. That budget is what the council passed Tuesday night.
It includes these cuts:
$21,316,921 from the general fund.
$11,547,045 from public safety.
$228,060 from SafeKey, an afterschool program.
$220,470 from the library.
Buck pointed out that 80 percent of the city’s expenditures are for salaries.
The city, until recently the fastest-growing city in the nation, has been hit hard by the recession. Property and sales taxes, the chief sources of revenue, are way down. The city has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation.
But there is distrust among union members about city officials’ honesty when it comes to layoffs.
“If they do go through with layoffs, the PSA’s not going to stand idly by and watch it happen,” Cardinale said. He would not clarify what he meant.
Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, said he did not trust the numbers put out by the city. “We’re going to wait and see what the real budget deficit is.”
He said the budget cuts do not account for nearly 100 Police Department positions that are already vacant.
City officials did not say exactly how many of the potential layoffs would include sworn police officers and firefighters versus civilian employees.
Nor did officials say how they would deal with such losses of personnel.
They have six and a half weeks until the new budget goes into effect July 1.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.
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