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Mayor: 60 more to lose jobs, firefighters won’t be cut

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Dave Toplikar

Mayor Oscar Goodman jokes with reporters Thursday at the beginning of his weekly press conference at Las Vegas City Hall. Goodman said the city council wouldn’t go along with a tentative pact city negotiators had worked out with firefighters because the negotiated cuts weren’t deep enough.

Updated Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 9:49 a.m.

More than 200 Las Vegas city employees are expected to lose their jobs as a result of $80 million in budget cuts needed for the next fiscal year — but none of them will be firefighters, Mayor Oscar Goodman said today.

Goodman revealed that number this morning at his weekly press conference, telling reporters that firefighters weren't among those being hit by the latest round of cuts.

Also, on another matter, the mayor confirmed to reporters that the "agreement in principle" that firefighters had tentatively reached with city staff negotiators last week doesn't have the support of the city council.

The city had asked firefighters to cut their personnel budget by $8.8 million, but the tentative pact amounted to $4.7 million in concessions.

"The sense was that it just hasn't been enough," Goodman said.

The Las Vegas City Council will hold a budget hearing next Tuesday to talk formally about negotiations with firefighters and deal with Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1. The budget will have to be submitted to the state in June.

The city approved a tentative budget in March that would eliminate about 145 jobs as of June 12. At that time the mayor had asked all city employee groups to reopen their contracts and voluntarily take no cost-of-living, step or longevity increases next year, plus take an 8 percent cut in salary and benefits in order to save jobs.

The city has been having formal negotiations with the firefighters union, and the city has asked the other three collective bargaining groups to reopen their contracts.

Because none of the employee groups had agreed to do so by late April, the mayor had instructed the city staff to go ahead and make those 145 job cuts in the final version of the budget, plus whatever other job cuts might be necessary.

More job cuts were needed because the deficit had grown from $70 million to $80 million, he said.

Reminded today that he had said earlier that all jobs were being scrutinized, including firefighters, Goodman said "I did say everybody is. Everybody's at risk here."

However, "... based on the budget that's going to be presented to us (Tuesday), there will be no firefighters on that list," he said.

Asked which employees would be included in the additional 60-plus layoffs, Goodman said "across the board, basically."

Those city employees were to be notified today that they will lose their jobs on July 16, according to David Riggleman, the city's communications director.

"We want to make sure that the staff has the opportunity to hear this first," Riggleman said.

Those on the chopping block include members of the Las Vegas City Employees Association, appointive and executive employees, city marshals and corrections officers, Riggleman told reporters after the press conference.

Riggleman said that while firefighters' positions weren't being cut, they would be losing overtime pay because of $5 million reductions due to rotating "brownouts" of at least three fire units per day. The units might include a fire truck, a water tender, a rescue unit, etc.

Firefighters and city still in talks

Goodman said the city council met for a little more than two hours Wednesday, continuing a recessed special closed meeting, to hear about the tentative agreement in principle that had been reached by the firefighters union and city negotiators.

"We considered the proposal that was tendered to us by firefighters," he said. "It's probably the most generous of proposals that has been made in recent memory. But unfortunately, and I can't speak for my colleagues because we're not allowed to reach consensus, but the feeling was that in the face of the magnitude of the financial burdens that are on the city now, it just wasn't enough."

Goodman said that the council will take up the matter in public at Tuesday's budget hearing.

"We'll express our positions at that point in time," he said. "But if yesterday was a time we were supposed to accept or reject, we couldn't do that. All we could do was express individual feelings. And from that the city manager would have to draw whatever conclusions had to be drawn. But there will be a full public discussion of this when we have our budget hearing."

Asked if privatizing emergency medical services was still on the table, Goodman said the city would like to do a study on the financial pros and cons of privatization versus firefighters performing those services.

He also said that consolidation of firefighting services to save money were still being worked out between the city and county staffs. However, it would be consolidation of certain services, such as responding to reports of hazardous material, rather than of the entire departments, he said.

Goodman contacted about open negotiations

Goodman also confirmed today that he had spoken with Gov. Jim Gibbons about Gibbons' initiative to have all public employee union negotiation sessions in the state be held in public meetings.

"I spoke to the governor on two occasions," Goodman said. "He called me and I told him I can't get involved in that discussion at this point in time because we were -- and are -- in discussions with fire and I don't want to do anything which would impede those discussions."

He said he spoke to the city staff about what would happen if all the city's collective bargaining negotiations were open to the public.

"They felt, from their perspective -- I'm not sure if I agree or disagree at this stage -- that there would be posturing, grandstanding and the like, and the real purpose of it would be diminished as a result of perhaps people trying to showboat," Goodman said.

Goodman said he expressed those sentiments to the governor.

"He indicated that he realized that's one of the issues that would have to be addressed," Goodman said.

CORRECTION: The story has been corrected to reflect that fire units, rather than fire stations, would be browned out as a result of cost-cutting in the city's fire department. | (May 14, 2010)

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