Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 10:50 p.m.
North Las Vegas City Manager Tim Hacker has a solution to balance the city’s budget for next year, and it doesn’t involve making friends with union leaders.
It will include layoffs and salary freezes, which police and firefighters union leaders promise to combat via lawsuit. Hacker claims the plan will close the $33 million budget gap the city faces for next fiscal year. He insists it will keep layoffs to a minimum without adversely affecting the city’s emergency services to residents, while cutting only excess fat.
Come Friday’s 5 p.m. city council meeting, Hacker and city officials plan to ask the council for special authority to force the unions to agree to concessions.
“I don’t have any animosity ... for these people, I just don’t. I don’t know them well enough to like or dislike them,” Hacker said of the unions. “I’m just going to do what’s in the best interest of the community. That’s what they pay me to do.”
The special authority city officials are seeking will end the negotiation stalemate of six months between the city and unions. Proposed budget moves include potentially closing the detention center, laying off a third of the firefighters and limiting the hours of the library and recreation center.
“We are preparing on Friday to go forward with this completely insane plan, which I’m not sure any attorneys out there beside (the city’s) own believe it can work,” said Mike Yarter, president of the Police Officers Association. “It violates our contract.”
As a result, union leaders are preparing to fight the city’s plan in court. Both Yarter and Jeff Hurley, who is the president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Association, said there would be a lawsuit waiting for the city on Monday morning.
“I expect them to pass it Friday,” Hurley said. “Unfortunately when they go forward and pass it on Friday, the only move for us is it’s an attack on the labor movement, and we will defend.”
Hacker said the city would be prepared if a lawsuit is filed against it, but he worried if the unions succeed in court, it would mean the loss of more jobs.
Still, Hacker is confident the city’s plan of forced concessions is the best way for the city to untangle the knotted ball of chords that is its budget. He expects it will take a few years, but with the city’s excess of land available for development that could create more jobs, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
For now, however, Hacker needs the unions to swallow another year of concessions, even if it won’t earn him any friends.
“If we can just get through these next few years,” Hacker said. “And we (need) to dampen down the vitriolic nature of this relationship … because we have to create a climate here that will be conducive for new development and industry.”