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Mayor: City job losses could double earlier estimates

Updated Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 1:16 p.m.

Possibly more than twice as many Las Vegas city employees — about 280 or more — could lose their jobs under a revised budget that will be drafted for the 2011 fiscal year, Mayor Oscar Goodman said today.

At his regular weekly press conference this morning, Goodman was asked how many more employees might lose their jobs than the 141 anticipated under the tentative budget the city council approved in March.

"I don't know. A lot. Maybe double. Maybe more than double," Goodman told reporters. The city council plans to approve a final budget on May 18.

Since January, Goodman and the city council had been trying to get the city's four unions to go along with an 8 percent pay cut this year and next year, plus no cost-of-living increases in order to save those jobs and allow the city to continue providing all the existing services. The city was hoping to save $29.7 million in personnel costs with that approach.

However, when the city's largest union voted Tuesday not to grant any concessions to the city, Goodman announced Wednesday at the city council meeting that the city manager would move forward to balance the budget — and this time without dipping as deeply into the city's reserves.

In order to save the reserve funds, Goodman said that will mean an increase in both employee layoffs and in program cuts.

Firefighters, who were spared from the original cuts of 141 jobs, will now also be subject to layoffs as the budget is revised, the mayor said.

"Everybody, across the board," Goodman said.

He said he has been advised by the fire chief through the city manager that the loss in jobs would not affect the response times and the quality of public safety.

"Are we going to have as many facilities open as we had in the past? No," Goodman said.

Since early March, when the tentative budget approved by the city had targeted which jobs would be cut, the Las Vegas City Employee Association, which had the most cuts, had been meeting regularly with city staff about concessions. The LVCEA had proposed that each employee take 96 hours of furlough, plus give up a 3 percent cost-of-living increase next year in order to help the city save $8.7 million.

However, based on factors that included not getting assurances that no more layoffs would be coming and on what some LVCEA members called "heavy handed tactics" by the mayor, the union voted not to reopen its contract to give any concessions to the city.

"Basically, I feel that we were not taken seriously," Goodman said. He said a group of employees who were not represented by a union, the so-called "administrative and appointive" positions, all agreed to the 8 percent cut and no cost-of-living or longevity increases next year and he hoped the union members would do the same.

"I thought there would be a pretty good degree of altruism. I was disappointed that there wasn't," he said.

Goodman said after he heard about the LVCEA vote for no concessions, "I took the position that I don't want to leave future elected officials in the same jackpot in which I find myself and the council finds itself and instructed the city manager, with approval of the city council, to cut as deeply as humanly possible in order to provide as many services as we can."

The mayor says he doesn't want to drop the reserve fund below the 10 percent level, which would have a negative effect on the city's bond rating.

"Because a sacrifice wasn't made, then we may as well clean up our act now, and not put it off for two or three years," he said.

Goodman was asked if the deeper cuts were a retaliation for employees' unions not working with the city to save jobs.

"I'm not into retaliating. But a choice was made and I thought it was a poor choice. But it's not retaliation at all," he said.

In response to a question whether there could be more layoffs, Goodman said "there will be, not could be."

The mayor, after saying there could be more than double the number of employees laid off, also said more programs would be cut in the revised budget.

"When you lose employees, you lose programs," he said. He said the earlier budget cut the city's extreme sports program, but some parents have begged to have two employees reinserted to keep it running.

"From what I heard yesterday, programs like that and a lot of other programs are going to go by the wayside," he said. "You think I like it? Well, I'm the mayor. You're wrong. I don't like it. But I asked everybody to come up and do the right thing. But it wasn't done. So I have no choice. Because all we can do as a city is to lay people off. We can't do anything else. It's our only remedy."

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