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October 23, 2014

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North Las Vegas still hopes unions will help bail city out of fiscal crisis

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Leila Navidi

Interim North Las Vegas City Manager/Fire Chief Jeffrey Buchanan speaks during an editorial board meeting at the Las Vegas Sun in Henderson on Thursday, October 10, 2013.

Despite talk of severe layoffs and cuts to services, North Las Vegas officials insisted today a financial calamity still could be averted if a deal was struck with the city’s employee unions.

But the window to reach agreements with the city’s four unionized employee groups is closing quickly: A tentative budget detailing solutions to the city’s $18 million deficit is due to the state on April 15.

City officials were meeting with representatives from several unions again today, with an eye on settling past contractual disputes and agreeing to new terms that will help right the city’s financial ship.

If a deal is not struck with the unions, city officials say, North Las Vegas could be forced to institute across-the-board cuts to its departments, leading to layoffs and reduced public

Officials said in a news conference today such a scenario isn’t acceptable, and they’re focusing on negotiating with unions to prevent any layoffs.

“The situation that we’re in right now has happened over decades. We see that there’s a lot of heavy lifting for this organization. It won’t be done overnight,” said Jeff Buchanan, North Las Vegas interim city manager. “With the help of our employees and the bargaining groups and everybody coming together, we think that we can solve the issue.”

The city must resolve two separate uinon-related issues.

The first involves public safety employees. A recent Clark County District Court ruling found the workers were wrongfully denied pay raises during a fiscal emergency declared in 2012 under North Las Vegas’ previous administration. The ruling means the city could owe as much as $25 million to those employees.

City officials have said they won’t be able to make full repayment. Instead, they say they are hoping to settle with the three affected unions with $7.7 million scraped together from various city funds.

Officials also are looking for concessions from the collective-bargaining groups to close the $18 million structural deficit in the city’s general fund.

Contracts with the city’s Teamsters and police officer unions – which represent about three quarters of the city’s 1,200-person workforce – are up this summer, opening the door to discuss concessions.

With the right agreements, Buchanan said the city’s entire deficit could be addressed, avoiding the need for any layoffs.

Discussion of the city’s finances will continue at Wednesday’s North Las Vegas City Council meeting. A special meeting is planned for April 10 to present the tentative budget that will be submitted to the state.

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