Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2016

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County ratifies 3-year contract with firefighters union

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday ratified a three-year contract with the firefighters union that eliminates longevity pay for future hires, a move that will save the county $60 million over 25 years.

The agreement was reached after firefighter wages and benefits came under scrutiny, prompting more stringent policies regarding sick leave.

As a result, in the last two years, sick leave has fallen 57,000 hours, amounting to a 40 percent drop for rank-and-file firefighters and a 90 percent drop in sick-leave use for battalion chiefs.

Some commissioners praised the union for coming to a quick contract agreement.

“Go on a call and watch them save a life, put a bloody body back together from a car wreck,” Commissioner Tom Collins said. “They leave their homes and their family to do that for us.”

Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager said the hands of schoolchildren still shoot up when asked if they want to be a firefighter. She predicted a good relationship between the county and its firefighters union moving forward.

“Where we are now is great, and as we continue to progress ... it’s going to be great from this point on,” she said. “The correction of the last two years, to me, is past.”

All of this comes against a backdrop of a looming ballot measure in 2014 in which voters will be asked to reapprove a 5.27 cents per $100 property tax for fire department operations — including wages and benefits — and capital projects, which include buildings and equipment.

Since voters 20 years ago initially approved the tax, which will expire in 2016 unless an extension is approved, it has brought in $161.8 million.

Of that, $58 million went for building 20 new fire stations and rebuilding or moving six others. Some $34 million was spent on equipment, leaving $72 million — including $15.4 million in accrued interest — in the bank.

County staff said that $72 million is needed for expansions, replacements and construction over the next four years, including more than $32.4 million to replace fleet and emergency medical service equipment. Another $31 million will go to expand and improve three stations and replace one.

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