Published Monday, Jan. 4, 2010 | 2:24 p.m.
Updated Monday, Jan. 4, 2010 | 4:25 p.m.
Rory Reid news conference
Rory Reid apparently was no longer content with waiting for another committee — even one he set up himself — to finalize suggestions for solving the county's budget crisis.
Holding a press conference in the chambers of the Clark County Commission, where he has served since 2002, Reid announced his desire not to study the idea of transferring University Medical Center to another entity, but to look at how the transfer can take place.
That's a huge departure for Reid, the two-time chairman of the county commission, who has expressed worry but also has been content to allow the process of change to evolve without pushing too hard. Now he's pushing.
Some of Reid's suggestions mirror those compiled by the Committee on Community Priorities, which has met some 40 hours over four months examining how the county works. The committee is prioritizing services within the county, a list of which will be presented to the county commission later this month or in early February.
After allowing the committee all that time to work on its suggestions, however, Reid has now leapfrogged over it before allowing it to finish.
"I just felt a sense of urgency," he said.
Aside from examining how UMC is managed and looking at the process for turning the hospital over to a not-for-profit, he talked about the need to talk with the county's employee unions, which represent more than 10,000 workers, about making concessions to help out the county's budget.
In the next fiscal year that begins July 1, the county expects a $126 million deficit. That's on top of this year's $70 million deficit. Much of the deficit is related to the economy, to cuts by the state Legislature, and the financial hemorrhaging of University Medical Center. As the economy has tumbled, the county-run hospital's numbers of non-paying patients has gone up.
The county subsidized the hospital to the tune of $143 million this fiscal year.
At the same time, 65 percent of the county's $1.5 billion general fund budget — that is, the budget funded by tax dollars and not covered by fees or other revenue streams — is eaten up by payroll costs for county workers. Echoing the Committee on Community Priorities' statements released last month, Reid said salaries and compensation have to be addressed because the current pay structure "cannot be sustained."
Over at Las Vegas City Hall, Mayor Oscar Goodman — who may wind up running against Reid in the gubernatorial race — is pushing for 8 percent pay cuts in each of the next two years. Asked after his press conference why he didn't push for something specific like Goodman had, Reid noted that the city had previously said 1 percent salary cuts and now is saying 8 percent.
"I don't want to come out and just throw up a figure," Reid said.
To address labor costs, Reid said he will ask unions to enter contract negotiations "with open minds" and will work with them to work out "sustainable agreements while limiting layoffs."
Union talks with the service employees union and firefighters union begin in a few weeks. He said he would also ask county commissioners to cut their salaries by the same percentages that employees' pay is cut.
Reid hopes the County Commission will be very receptive to ideas for change to be adopted by the Committee on Community Priorities, many of which targeted duplication of function
The process of change begins tomorrow. Reid had an item put on the agenda for Tuesday's County Commission meeting directing commissioners to "discuss proposed reorganizations in the county." It is expected to open up discussion about the possible future of UMC.
"The Citizen's Committee on Community Priorities has discussed several topics," the agenda backup information notes. "The final report should be ready in late January, but due to the county's financial position, immediate implementation of some items may be appropriate."
Commissioner Steve Sisolak applauded Reid not waiting and is particularly eager to make a change at UMC.
"We've got to protect the taxpayers and turn UMC into a nonprofit or a teaching hospital or something other than what it is now. The current model just isn't sustainable," Sisolak said.
He said Reid's other suggestions "are good first steps too. Our labor costs need to be reined in because we can't afford to go on like this. We've got to have meaningful concessions in this next go-round of talks."
Sisolak said he also looks "forward to implementing many of the Committee on Community Priorities' recommendations. Their thoughtfulness and deliberation is something we should all take advantage of."
All of the commissioners except Lawrence Weekly are slated to conduct town hall meetings to get the public's feedback on the committee's recommendations.
Sisolak will conduct the first one, at 6:30 p.m. Monday at South Point casino's Brunswick Room, 9777 Las Vegas Boulevard South.
Commissioner Tom Collins' meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at Cora Coleman Senior Center, 2100 Bonnie Lane.
Reid's meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at Paradise Community Center, 4775 McLeod Drive.
Commissioner Susan Brager's meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at Desert Breeze Community Center, 8275 Spring Mountain Road. Commissioner Larry Brown plans to attend that one as well.
Brown's meeting is to be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Mountain Crest Community Center, 4701 N. Durango Road, and Collins plans to attend that one too.