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July 27, 2014

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City government:

Mayor: Firefighters, city staff reach ‘agreement in principle’

But agreement still needs city council approval, Goodman says

An "agreement in principle" has been made between Las Vegas city staff and the firefighters' union on a new contract, Mayor Oscar Goodman confirmed today.

However, the tentative deal with the International Association of Fire Fighters is short of the 8 percent salary cut that all city employees were asked to take next year in light of an $80 million budget shortfall, Goodman said. He declined to spell out the specifics of the tentative agreement, but did give some hints.

"In principle, I can tell you it's flat ... and less than the 8 percent that I suggested the city employees propose to us, but more than 1 percent ... in salaries and or benefits," Goodman told reporters at his weekly press conference.

Earlier, the city had asked firefighters to take an $8.8 million cut in personnel costs, but as of early April, the union had made concessions amounting to only $900,000.

Goodman stressed that the tentative firefighters agreement has not been formally brought before the city council — so no formal agreement has been reached.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "But, as I said, there is no consensus on the part of the council as to whether we're going to accept it or not."

A tentative budget the city council approved in March would cut 141 city jobs and eliminate some services. The city will have a final budget hearing on May 18.

The expected budget deficit has grown since then to $80 million in the 2010 fiscal year and another $40 million in the 2012 fiscal year, Goodman says.

The higher deficit -- and the lack of concessions from the unions -- will lead to twice as many jobs cut as was anticipated earlier, he said. And firefighters, who weren't included in the earlier round of cuts, could be included, the mayor has said.

The firefighters are the only city union now holding negotiations with the city.

The remaining three collective bargaining units have been asked to reopen their contracts and agree to give up their contracted cost-of-living pay increases, step increases and longevity increases, as well as take a 8 percent salary decrease next year in order to save jobs.

Thus far, the other unions have made some overtures to the city, but so far no deals have been struck.

The city's largest union, the Las Vegas City Employees Association, had been working on an agreement with the city, but its members voted in late April not to make any concessions.

Part of the reason was because they said the city could not guarantee if they made concessions that there would be no layoffs. Their chief negotiator said another reason was because the members thought Goodman's approach had been too heavy-handed.

Goodman said the union representing the city marshals, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, has an offer on the table, but that offer has not yet come before the city council.

Earlier, the city had asked the LVPPA to reduce personnel costs by $1.1 million, but an offer the union put out in early April amounted to only $400,000. Goodman didn't provide any details about the union's latest offer.

The Las Vegas Police Officers Association, which represents corrections officers was asked to cut $3.1 million. And the LVCEA was asked to make cuts amounting to $16.7 million.

"I have not heard from either of them," Goodman said. "As I keep on saying, it is in their best interest to come to us with an offer or else the carnage begins. I can't put it any other way. People say that I'm mean when I talk that way. I'm just trying to be as pragmatic as I can be."

Goodman also commented on economic analyst Jeremy Aguero's recommendation to the council on Wednesday that no city jobs be cut -- doing so just creates more problems, Aguero said.

"I know what he was saying, but he's not talking about the reality as far as the municipal labor agreements are concerned," Goodman said. "And he conceded that when I said we're in a dilemma, we don't want to see anybody laid off. But on the other hand, the only remedy that we have if we don't have money ... is to lay off people. That's what the private sector does."

Goodman said he knows that laying off people doesn't help the overall situation because it just creates more unemployment. But that's the only option the city has, he said.

"We're not like the feds. We can't just print money when we want to print money or create debts that we can't pay back," he said.

Goodman was asked if there were any specific city programs that were on the chopping block.

"Everything is open to discussion," he said. He said the council met in closed session with city staff for about two hours Wednesday and plans to meet next week with them on possible job cuts.

"There are some philosophical issues that have to be resolved before we take a position one way or the other," he said.

He said he would be briefed next Monday and Tuesday as to specific personnel positions that would be cut under the final budget proposal.

"It would be at least twice as what we were talking about," he said.

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