Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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THE ECONOMY:

Sheriff looking for cooperation on budget cuts

Gillespie seeks unions’ help to trim $19 million

Beyond the Sun

Doug Gillespie is denying himself a raise this year.

The Clark County sheriff is attempting a “zero growth” budget — in other words, he won’t ask for any more money this year than last year. But squeezing a no-growth budget out of a pro-growth department is complicated origami, with fiscal folds sharp enough to cut not just the sheriff’s salary, but the paychecks of his employees as well.

Gillespie says the zero-growth budget is impossible without concessions from Metro Police’s three police and civilian unions. The sheriff wouldn’t say what those concessions entail, though Metro sources have been whispering for weeks about giving up their raises. Not cuts, but freezes.

On Thursday night the Police Protective Association, Metro’s largest employee union, agreed not to seek salary increases for one year. After five rounds of negotiations, union President Chris Collins told the Sun, “If taking a no-raise but no-loss contract can help the community at large, then, in my opinion, this was the right thing to do.”

Now the roughly 2,700 rank-and-file officers Collins represents have to agree. In about a month, PPA members will vote.

They could save the department a considerable sum. Just 1 percent of the PPA payroll costs Metro roughly $3.5 million, Collins said. To meet the zero-growth budget, Gillespie has to shave $19 million in costs, making the department’s total budget a trim $549 million.

The sheriff has cut $11 million by eliminating several unstaffed civilian positions entirely, and suspending hiring on other civilian jobs, reducing the number of take-home cars and not replacing old computers.

The sheriff’s rejected 3 percent raise saved the department $4,440, too.

Before the PPA agreed to forgo salary increases, Gillespie still had to cut about $8 million to make his no-growth goal. It’s hard to say how far the PPA concession will go toward closing the gap because the union’s contract was going to expire in June — without knowing what the raises would have been, we can’t know the savings.

The PPA Civilian Employees union contract is set until 2011, though union President Terri Yada says the group is open to concessions.

“We’re in a giveback situation,” she said, “We have a fabulous group of people that are willing to do what they have to do.”

The union’s contract stipulates that civilian employees are entitled to a 3.75 percent raise in 2010. Yada was waiting to see how the PPA worked out its contract, and will now be going to the bargaining table with Metro as well.

The Metro Police Managers and Supervisors Association, which represents roughly 450 of Metro’s command staff, anticipated a 3.75 percent to 4 percent raise this year — an increase planned three years ago, when the economy was better, Chairman Paul Page said. While the PMSA contract is good for another year, the group is also ready to make temporary concessions, and has plans to open negotiations with Metro.

Thirty percent of the police department’s budget is self-generated, largely through property taxes. But last year’s property tax projections have fallen short by $4.5 million. Metro has historically asked for 10 percent annual budget increases from the Las Vegas City Council and Clark County Commission. The city and county jointly fund the department.

If Gillespie can’t cut all $19 million, the sheriff says he’ll take a “hard look inside” the department. His fear is that a second round of cuts would come too close to the bone — without concessions from all three unions, Gillespie says he’ll have to trim back areas that could affect operational effectiveness. One man rejecting one raise is not enough.

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