Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

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North Las Vegas finalizing budget to submit to state

North Las Vegas administrators were finishing a tentative budget to submit to the Nevada Department of Taxation on Tuesday in a bid to avoid a state takeover of city finances and services, a city spokesman said.

Key provisions of the spending plan remained in flux until last week, when Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval helped broker handshake agreements between the city and key employee unions to overcome a projected budget deficit of nearly $18 million.

The City Council gave an initial endorsement to the deals just minutes after the Thursday talks yielded results. A ratification vote by the council is scheduled by May 21, in time for a final city budget to be submitted to the state June 2.

City police, firefighters and Teamsters union members also still need to ratify the agreements.

City spokesman Mitch Fox said Tuesday he couldn't provide budget figures because city finance chief Darren Adair was still finalizing the document.

Sumiko Maser, state Taxation Department deputy executive director in Carson City, said Tuesday was the postmark deadline for submitting a tentative budget.

Last year, the overall adopted North Las Vegas city budget was just under $433 million, including $282 million in general-fund spending. The overall was down from $481.5 million the year before.

The drop reflected the financial crises North Las Vegas has been dealing with for several years.

After growing rapidly to about 225,000 residents and becoming the fourth-largest city in the state, North Las Vegas fell hard when a housing boom crashed amid the Great Recession of 2007. The city was one of the hardest-hit in the nation by foreclosures and bankruptcies. It endured city employee layoffs and budget cuts as home values depreciated and its tax base withered.

The most recent crisis followed a state court ruling in January that the city could not withhold $25 million in pay raises to public safety employees.

City officials went to the unions, proposing a $7.7 million settlement against an alternative of steep cuts and layoffs for city employees and tax hikes for city residents.

Police Sgt. Leonard Cardinale, in his fourth year heading the 50-member North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association, said Tuesday he hoped the agreement reached last week would help stabilize city finances and reduce employee uncertainty.

Cardinale noted that the governor was blunt with bargainers he brought together to avoid a state takeover.

"He told us that whatever happens to North Las Vegas affects the rest of the state," Cardinale said.

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