Las Vegas Sun

October 13, 2015

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North Las Vegas city manager wants to suspend parts of police, fire contracts

Unions want state to intervene and take over management of city

North Las Vegas City Manager Tim Hacker will ask the city council to suspend portions of the city’s contracts with labor unions to help balance North Las Vegas’ budget while maintaining police and fire services.

The city’s unions are calling on the state to intervene and take over management of North Las Vegas.

Hacker’s request, announced in a news release Wednesday morning, is to be considered at a special council meeting June 1. The move comes as the city faces a state-mandated deadline to present a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year.

North Las Vegas leaders say a down economy and high foreclosure and unemployment rates have caused revenue streams to dry up and left the city with a $33 million budget gap to plug.

Police and firefighter unions have thus far resisted the city’s calls for freezing annual raises and other recessions.

Earlier this month, the North Las Vegas City Council approved a budget that would cut about 200 police, firefighters and Teamsters union jobs if concession agreements weren’t made. In a news release Wednesday, Hacker said the time to move was now but that layoffs weren’t the answer. The ratio of public safety workers to residents in North Las Vegas already is among the lowest in Southern Nevada, the city said.

"We have sought reasonable concessions, but the unions have refused to come to terms. Now, we must take action,” Hacker said in the release. “Public safety is our No. 1 objective. Without taking this action, we would be forced to lay off large numbers of police and firefighters. We don’t want to take them off the streets, where we already are stretched thin, and could risk compromising the health, safety and welfare of the city's residents and businesses."

Hacker has prepared a resolution that would authorize the temporary suspension of some terms of the city's existing collective bargaining agreements with the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1607.

Those terms include the suspension of raises, holiday sell-back pay and uniform allowances. Hacker maintains state law authorizes the city to suspend certain terms of collective bargaining agreements for North Las Vegas to remain solvent and protect public safety and welfare while in the grips of an ongoing economic recession.

Capt. Jeff Hurley, president of North Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1607, said the police and firefighters are ready for the state to step in.

“Less than two weeks ago Tim Hacker swore to officials of the state of Nevada that North Las Vegas had the wherewithal to continue operations and would end the year with a surplus,” Hurley said in a news release issued by the firefighters’ union. “Thirteen days later, Hacker is now telling the people of North Las Vegas there is in fact an emergency.”

The emergency, Hurley said, lies in the management of the city.

“We need to have state officials step in,” Hurley said. “It is clear, there is no one running North Las Vegas City Hall. Tim Hacker is in way over his head. This is not the guy who is going to be able to steer this city through this time of need.”

He questioned the city’s stance that its unions were refusing to help North Las Vegas during troubling times. North Las Vegas Firefighters, he said, accepted all of the city’s requested financial concessions, and Hacker then turned and misled members of the media, saying firefighters had declined the offer. Hurley also said firefighters already have agreed to eight separate rounds of concessions over three years at a savings to the city in the neighborhood of $20 million.

According to the city, the average salary and benefits for a North Las Vegas Police Officers Association member totals $136,000, while supervisors receive $186,000 in total compensation. An International Association of Firefighters Local 1607 member salary and benefits total $139,000. The city covers 100 percent of healthcare insurance premium costs and 100 percent for all union members’ retirement contributions.

The city faces a June 1 deadline to submit a final budget to the state. The budget would go into effect July 1.

Today’s news release indicated the city would continue to negotiate with its unions to amend the collective bargaining agreements.

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