Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Union leaders balk at NLV’s budget-cutting plans

City overinflating fiscal problems, labor leaders contend


Steve Marcus

North Las Vegas Fire Capt. Jeff Hurley poses by a ladder truck at Fire Station 56 near Aliante Parkway and the 215 Beltway in North Las Vegas on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Hurley also is president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Association, the union representing North Las Vegas firefighters.

North Las Vegas officials laid out a stark reality during a budget meeting earlier this week: With the city facing an $18 million deficit next year, more concessions from employee unions will be needed.

The tough talk comes after years of back and forth between the city and unions, which have repeatedly battled over cuts as budgets shrank rapidly during the recession.

Mayor Shari Buck said unions would need to give up raises and other benefits to help the city make ends meet in the fiscal year that begins in July.

“Whether they help or not remains to be seen,” she said Tuesday.

The already tense relationship between the city and its unions reached its nadir last summer when the council declared a fiscal emergency, allowing the city to break contracts and force concessions.

The city’s actions are the subject of ongoing litigation and a lawsuit filed by the North Las Vegas police, fire and police supervisors is in the pretrial phase in Clark County District Court.

If the city loses the suit, it could be forced to pay back millions to members, union leaders say.

City Manager Tim Hacker said Tuesday unions couldn’t expect to keep operating under unsustainable contracts agreed to during better economic times.

After taking drastic action last year, including closing the city’s detention center, eliminating office positions and shortening library hours, Hacker said there’s little room to cut the city’s budget outside of employee compensation.

But leaders from several North Las Vegas employee unions say they don’t buy city management’s budget math and accuse the city of being misleading about the current state of its finances.

“They use words like projections, projected estimates; none of it is concrete,” said Jeff Hurley, North Las Vegas Firefighters Association president. “There are a lot of indicators that this budget is pretty rough and they haven’t taken a scalpel to it yet.”

Hurley said he expected the city to bring in slightly more property and consolidated tax revenue over the next year, which isn’t represented in the city’s budget.

There also are dozens of vacant positions included in the city’s analysis, which further skews the budget picture, said North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association President Leonard Cardinale.

“We absolutely think the city is hiding the ball. They’re moving money around so they don’t have to show us,” he said. “The police supervisors do not trust the city when it comes to negotiations.”

Hurley, Cardinale and North Las Vegas Police Officers Association President Mike Yarter emphasized that their members already have made repeated concessions in the past years, forgoing raises and benefits in previous attempts at solving the city’s budget woes. Last year’s tally alone, Yarter said, amounted to $9.5 million from union workers.

Yarter said it’s unclear whether money saved from employee concessions had been used effectively by city management.

“We gave back concessions three or four times. In a seven-year contract, we’ve taken two raises,” Yater said. “Have those savings been reflected after what we’ve given them? I haven’t seen the numbers.”

The city and its unions will have a little more than a month to strike a deal before May 21, when the city is required to finalize a plan that eliminates its budget deficit. It will then submit a final budget June 1.

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