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October 21, 2014

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Las Vegas mayor: Salary cuts needed to save 171 city jobs

Goodman says city and unions still far apart as council prepares to approve budget next week

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Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman responds to questions from reporters after announcing Thursday, Feb. 24, 2010, that 171 city workers would be laid off in June if labor unions don't agree to an 8 percent salary cut.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says the city's not backing down — the city council is slated to approve a budget next Wednesday that will slash the jobs of 171 city employees unless unions agree to pay cuts.

"They're part of the family, but unless we get what we need in order to make sure that nobody is terminated, there's no other way to put it — there will be carnage," Goodman told reporters today at his weekly press conference.

On Wednesday, the Police Protection Association, which represents the city marshals, offered to give up a cost-of-living increase next year and a uniform allowance as well their longevity pay, with the hope of saving 13 city marshals from losing their jobs.

Goodman said the offer wasn't "that far off," but didn't hold all salaries flat and didn't arrive at the 8 percent cut the city manager says is needed.

"If it was flat, plus what they offered, it would be much more attractive to us," Goodman said. "But it was very close to the 8 percent."

Goodman said he considers the 8 percent to be non-negotiable, but then he backed off somewhat.

"Nothing is ever in cement. I want to do the right thing. I want to be reasonable. The council wants to be reasonable. Management wants to be reasonable," he said. "If we get close, we certainly have to consider. But right now, we're too far apart."

Goodman said he spoke with the City Employee Association representatives Wednesday and spoke with a firefighters' union representative Tuesday and made the city's position clear.

He said if the unions agree to flat incomes — no cost-of-living adjustments, no longevity step pay and no merit increases — plus an 8 percent across-the-board compensation cut, all the employees can be kept and most services will be retained, he said.

"It's that simple. There's nothing tricky about it. There's nothing underhanded about it. I put it out there. And I guess it's a test of altruism and where people stand," he said. "A lot of people have indicated to me why should they care about their brethren, so to speak. Where I come from, that's what people are supposed to do. We'll see what happens."

Goodman said the city manager sent out a letter to employees on Nov. 20, setting a January date to get the unions to come to the table to reopen their contracts. There are 3,433 employees, most of the represented by unions.

"I don't think people believe we're going to stand by our guns," Goodman said. "But it's not because we want to, it's because we have to. We don't have a choice."

The last of the city's series of town hall meetings to discuss the upcoming budget cuts will be held at 6:30 p.m. today at the Charleston Heights Arts Center/Theater, 800 S. Brush St.

Goodman said people who have attended the budget meetings over the last two months fall into two groups. One group is city employees.

The second group consists of people who have come to rely on a specific city service and don't want to see that cut, he said.

"It varies from the woman who has an autistic child who goes to our adaptive leisure service program and finds miracles take place as far as the child's responses are concerned to seniors who are concerned that they're not getting coffee at their breakfast meetings to folks who want to make sure that certain cultural centers remain open and they feel the centers their children go to are more important than other centers," he said.

Goodman said the city manager's office has used such public input to arrive at the budget it plans to present March 10 to the city council.

"If we don't have any concessions — and I hope we do — we're going to adopt a budget as presented to us and authorize the city staff to go forward with that budget," he said. A final budget will need to be forwarded to the state in May. The city is dealing with a $70 million shortfall.

He said if one bargaining unit agrees to the cuts, but the other three groups do not, there will be no agreement.

"It's all or nothing," Goodman said. "I'm not going to take an 8 percent cut unless everybody takes an 8 percent cut. I'm not going to ask my staff to take an 8 percent cut and remain flat unless everybody does. It's not fair. So we'll see what the mettle is of the folks who work for the city, whether solidarity means anything or it doesn't."

What if the unions come to the city with a smaller pay cut, such as 7.75 percent cut instead of an 8 percent cut?

"Then if they do, we'll have to consider 7.75," he said, smiling. "With a flat 7.75 and everybody does it, I might be at home drinking."

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