Thursday, June 28, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Amid the financial bleakness hanging over the city of North Las Vegas like a storm cloud, Mayor Shari Buck is casting her eye toward 2017.
In the present, Buck has overseen difficult decisions. This month, the North Las Vegas City Council declared a financial emergency to close a budget deficit exceeding $30 million. In July, the city will close all but one wing of the North Las Vegas Detention Center and cut 108 city and public service union workers. Other budget cuts are being made, too.
Yet, Buck said 2017 is when experts think the economy will be back to normal, and she is confident the decisions the city has made will help it get there.
“We have a great plan to bring our business community, our chamber, our residents into a recovery and revitalization of the city,” Buck said Wednesday at a meeting with the Las Vegas Sun editorial board.
Buck and City Manager Tim Hacker said some changes in the city’s services could be made to become more cost efficient between now and a full economic recovery. Buck said there’s been talk in sharing services, from dispatch centers to road maintenance, with Las Vegas, Clark County and other entities to save money and increase efficiency.
Aside from cutting costs, Hacker and Buck said they’d like to see renewed stabilization for businesses and homeowners. With 57 percent of its land undeveloped, Buck said North Las Vegas could be an enticing place for new businesses to start. Growth in business and the housing industry would help return North Las Vegas’ economy back to normal.
“We are asking our local residents to … do everything they can to support local businesses in the city in any way,” Buck said, “to buy local and try to sustain us through this, and move together as a business and community as we revitalize and regrow as a city.”
The city and its unions failed in their attempts to negotiate contracts. The North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association filed a lawsuit against the city over the forced budget cuts, and the Firefighters Association has asked an arbitrator to nullify the decision.
Buck is firm the city has made the right decision regarding the unions.
“It’s the first time anybody told them no,” Buck said. “In the 13 years I’ve been on the City Council, this is the first time all five of us are solidified in the direction we’re going with the city manager.”
Still, Hacker said he would welcome a chance to work with the city’s unions to help improve emergency services.
“If they would come to us as we’re going to continuously come to them and say, ‘Look, things aren’t changing,’ we would love to have their input,” Hacker said. “We believe the folks providing services day in and day out have some good ideas in how to retool.”
Buck said North Las Vegas was one of the cities hit hardest by the recession but thinks the council’s difficult decisions will lead North Las Vegas down a path of recovery.
“We feel like we are righting the ship,” Buck said. “We’ve had to make some tough decisions, like closing our jail down, which was inefficient and cost us too many employees per ratio to guard those inmates. So we’re taking those measures to be more efficient.”