Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

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Committee says North Las Vegas employee salaries ‘out of whack’

Shari Buck

Shari Buck

William Robinson

William Robinson

The North Las Vegas City Council heard some tough-love solutions to its budget problems during a special meeting Wednesday night.

The presentation, given by North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Vice President Joe Cain on behalf of a nine-member steering committee appointed by the council in June, outlined ways the city could cut $52 million during the next two years.

The committee consists of members of the business community and met 10 times between July 8 and Sept. 21.

Cain summarized the group's findings in six areas: Conservative fiscal planning, employee salary reductions, no new taxes or fees, economic development, efficiencies and reorganization, and a spending freeze on new projects.

The most vital of those would be cutting employee salaries, which make up 75 to 80 percent of the city’s expenses, Cain said.

“The current salary structure is unsustainable,” Cain said, adding that city employees make an average of more than $100,000 a year in salaries and benefits. “The salaries are out of whack with the private sector...You can’t run a city on those numbers.”

If all employees took a 10 percent pay cut in benefits and salaries, the budget problem would go away, Cain said. “If you look at what the citizens want, that’s probably what they want,” he said.

Cain urged the council to educate people about how much their employees make, including police officers and firefighters with union contracts. He also urged the city to look into public-private partnerships that could potentially lower the cost of city services.

Cain also said the city should avoid opening new facilities or starting new projects that have not been paid for. Aggressively trying to attract new businesses would also help alleviate problems, he said.

Taxes and fees should not be raised, no matter how tempting those options may be, Cain said. It’s unfair to ask already-struggling residents for more of their share, he said.

“All of our businesses are doing more with less,” Cain said. “The city is not going to escape that trend.”

Mayor Shari Buck said the city’s hands are often tied when it comes to negotiating with unions.

“We understand what our limitations are, especially on salaries and benefits,” Buck said. “As of now, what [the unions] are due is what they’re due, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

“We certainly are very far from this crisis being over,” Buck said. “It’s a guessing game in how it’s all going to turn out.”

Mayor Pro Tem William Robinson said he disagreed. The real threat of layoffs, he said, would send unions a wake-up call.

“Until we make them, we have to wallow in what we have now,” he said. “I’m tired of it. It’s time for us to make some tough decisions.”

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  1. It is time to tell our state lawmakers that NRS-288 MUST be changed! Mandated collective bargaining has to be gotten rid of. The idea of public employee unions should be repugnant to every taxpayer and elected official.

    Unions are a legitimate and necessary part of the private sector, but they have no place in the public sector.

  2. Unionized public employees across Nevada, and several other states, are clueless on three points:

    (1) The public vastly prefers that all public employees take salary and benefit cuts, rather than public agencies making layoffs and diminishing services to the public.

    (2) In the event of widespread layoffs of public employees lacking seniority, services to the public will significantly diminish, while the tax burden of the average taxpayer will not diminish one bit.

    (3) The long term consequence of the diminution of services to the public, combined with widespread anger on the part of the public about high salaries and expensive benefits for remaining public employees, will be the election of hard-core anti-union elected officials who will not renew public employee unions' contracts and who will begin the process of terminating all public employees not willing to take pay and benefit cuts sufficient to restore the full range of services to the public.

    It's the same principle which existed in the French Revolution. It was not so much the King who the people hated, but instead it was his employees who administered public policy.

    In the long term, public employees with seniority are simply insuring the election of rabid anti-union Republicans and Independents to public office. That is especially true in Nevada where the real unemployment rate now exceeds 20%.

  3. They all need to take a haircut, management and labor, but no one is willing to do it. It used to be, and I speak from experience having worked for a time in a federal government job in the late 1980's, that pay was somewhat less in the public sector, but the benefits, health, pension was better and you had excellent job security. Now, in the public sector you have all of those things but the salaries for comparable work are at 30-50% premium and sometimes more. It is just unsustainable in the current environment and needs to change.