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July 4, 2015

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Committee says North Las Vegas employee salaries ‘out of whack’

Shari Buck

Shari Buck

William Robinson

William Robinson

The North Las Vegas City Council heard some tough-love solutions to its budget problems during a special meeting Wednesday night.

The presentation, given by North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Vice President Joe Cain on behalf of a nine-member steering committee appointed by the council in June, outlined ways the city could cut $52 million during the next two years.

The committee consists of members of the business community and met 10 times between July 8 and Sept. 21.

Cain summarized the group's findings in six areas: Conservative fiscal planning, employee salary reductions, no new taxes or fees, economic development, efficiencies and reorganization, and a spending freeze on new projects.

The most vital of those would be cutting employee salaries, which make up 75 to 80 percent of the city’s expenses, Cain said.

“The current salary structure is unsustainable,” Cain said, adding that city employees make an average of more than $100,000 a year in salaries and benefits. “The salaries are out of whack with the private sector...You can’t run a city on those numbers.”

If all employees took a 10 percent pay cut in benefits and salaries, the budget problem would go away, Cain said. “If you look at what the citizens want, that’s probably what they want,” he said.

Cain urged the council to educate people about how much their employees make, including police officers and firefighters with union contracts. He also urged the city to look into public-private partnerships that could potentially lower the cost of city services.

Cain also said the city should avoid opening new facilities or starting new projects that have not been paid for. Aggressively trying to attract new businesses would also help alleviate problems, he said.

Taxes and fees should not be raised, no matter how tempting those options may be, Cain said. It’s unfair to ask already-struggling residents for more of their share, he said.

“All of our businesses are doing more with less,” Cain said. “The city is not going to escape that trend.”

Mayor Shari Buck said the city’s hands are often tied when it comes to negotiating with unions.

“We understand what our limitations are, especially on salaries and benefits,” Buck said. “As of now, what [the unions] are due is what they’re due, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

“We certainly are very far from this crisis being over,” Buck said. “It’s a guessing game in how it’s all going to turn out.”

Mayor Pro Tem William Robinson said he disagreed. The real threat of layoffs, he said, would send unions a wake-up call.

“Until we make them, we have to wallow in what we have now,” he said. “I’m tired of it. It’s time for us to make some tough decisions.”

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