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May 6, 2015

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local government:

North Las Vegas must turn to unions to help close latest budget gap

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North Las Vegas city manager Timothy Hacker answers a question during a meeting with the Las Vegas Sun editorial board Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

It’s back to the negotiating table for North Las Vegas.

North Las Vegas Finance Director Al Zochowski outlined the city’s projected budget to the city council on a special meeting Tuesday. Once again the city faces a budget gap, this time totaling $18 million.

Last year the city declared a state of emergency to eliminate a $33 million budget gap after negotiations stalled with the police, fire and Teamsters unions. This time, there is little left to cut but salary raises and holiday benefits. To do that, the city must repair its relationship with the unions and come to a deal it couldn’t reach one year ago.

“If (unions) don’t take their raises, uniform allowances or holiday pay back it keeps us in a frugal situation,” Mayor Shari Buck said. “One way or the other our budget will be balanced. Whether they help or not remains to be seen.”

The city has struggled with budget deficits since the recession, but City Manager Tim Hacker said it has improved every year. After a $60 million budget gap heading into 2010, the city has decreased it to only $18 million this year through a series of cuts.

Last year, that meant closing the detention center, forcing firefighters to take less overtime, eliminating office positions and shortening hours for libraries.

This year, Hacker said the only place left to find cuts is in employee wages and benefits, which he estimates add up to about 80 to 85 percent of the city’s cost. To do that, he said the city and unions must overcome any issues lingering from last year and put the city first.

That means renegotiating the union contracts that were made when the economy was more stable but are unsustainable now.

“One thing we cannot afford to do is keep moving the target down the road,” Hacker said. “We’ll have to deal with the fact that the economy has changed dramatically, so those expectations are not going to be realistic anytime soon.”

Zochowski said this year’s budget deficit stems from a lack of tax revenue. Zochowski said staff levels are already at a minimum to provide services, so there is little excess or areas of overspending to cut.

In the meeting, he highlighted a $1 million budget deficit in the library fund that is paid for solely through property taxes in the meeting Tuesday. He isn’t sure it is possible to maintain three libraries with the revenue the way it is.

“I happen to know city council is adamant at keeping service levels at the libraries at a minimum the way they are at, so we are going to look hard to find ways to do that,” Zochowski said. “Will we be successful? I’m not sure, but we’re sure going to try.”

The city must file its budget with the Nevada Department of Taxation by April 15, but it has until May 21 to eliminate the budget deficit before it submits a final budget on June 1.

The fate of this year’s budget rests on the city and unions striking a deal they couldn’t come to in time last year. One way or another, however, Buck said the budget will be balanced.

“We’ll see if they’re willing to help the city,” Buck said. “If not, obviously we’re talking about layoffs again.”

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  1. Be_Aware,

    Can you name one city that has banned Telestaff software and a legit source to back it up?

    Telestaff software is one of the most used programs across the United states by government agencies.

  2. What about the scam that was revealed years ago where every firefighter calls in their maximum sick days so a guy at another station can get the maximum overtime?

    @Vegasfireman, do you honestly think teachers only do their jobs on contracted time? Between coaching fall and spring sports, grading papers, and lesson planning, I put in around 70-75 hours a week. Oh yeah, I also don't get any extra pay for lesson planning or grading on my own time.

    My job requires a Master's degree in Secondary Education Mathematics which requires calculus 1,2 & 3, elementary number theory, discrete math, linear math, abstract algebra, etc. - Enough math to make the average person curl up into the fetal position. Oh yeah, and I make ~20k less than the average firefighter.

    What exactly do you do for that 70% of your "contracted" time when you're not out on calls?

    I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the services you offer the other 30% of the time, but don't try to compare yourselves to teachers and why you think you deserve more compensation than them.

  3. The City of NLV and all cities need to redo compensation packages for all employees. It is absolutely shameful how much they are paid AND the PERS retirements that are paid by taxpayers, not employees, where they get 3-6 TIMES what SS would provide in benefits.

  4. Whole lot of noise here with minimal content. Tune in people. Our economy is still on the down slide. It's more important to adopt 15-20 million illegals and bring them up out of poverty than to continue our way of life. What USED TO BE a decent salary is NOW EXCESSIVE COMPENSATION.

  5. Just because only one group of people were blatantly caught in the scam (and yes it IS a scam), doesn't prove the innocence of the rest of the firefighters in the valley.

    But... but... their employer FORCES them to work overtime. It SAVES the city money. To quote Vegasfireman, "LAUGH."

    Yeah, paying every firefighter time and a half SAVES the city money over paying another employee regular time. Even with benefits, there is no possible way that SAVES the taxpayers one cent. Go ahead and keep trying to convince the public of that.

    When you consider all the actual down time you have, do you honestly think you "work" more than I?

    Reading your slanderous posts only proves why the majority of the people that have read this article are not defending, but rather attacking pompous, overcompensated firefighters like yourself.