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July 28, 2014

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Answers: Clark County:

UMC nurses approved for competitive paychecks

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Sam Morris / File photo

University Medical Center is Clark County's only publicly funded hospital.

Lost in the contract dispute between Clark County and the Service Employees International Union are real concerns that wages for the unionized nurses at University Medical Center are far below those of private hospitals. The result, the argument goes, is that private hospitals easily poach UMC’s nurses by offering higher pay.

That disparity in pay might now be addressed.

How did that happen?

Two weeks ago, Clark County commissioners, who are also UMC’s board of trustees, accepted a report from the hospital on the income disparity. And they gave the hospital approval to increase the pay range for registered nurses.

What was the old pay range and what is the new?

There are actually three pay ranges for three nurse designations.

One pay range changed from $22.49-$34.86 to $25.64-$39.74; another changed from $23.61-$36.60 to $26.92-$41.73; and the last changed from $23.84-$36.95 to $27.75-$43.01.

How will the wage increases be paid for? The hospital is already a huge drain on the county’s tax revenues — it lost $72 million last fiscal year because of unpaid bills and was propped up with another $59 million in county funds.

The increases will begin in January and are estimated to cost an additional $1.5 million. In April, an arbitrator sided with Clark County in awarding a 2 percent wage reduction for SEIU employees and made it retroactive to May 3. As a result, commissioners voted in August for thousands of UMC workers to pay back an average of $280 each, money earned from July 1, 2010, and May 2011. Commissioners decided to spread the payback over 21 pay periods so workers would see an average of $13 less per paycheck.

By forcing the payback, the county saved an additional $1.3 million or so, which is close to the additional cost of increasing wages for UMC’s nurses — meaning the increase will be almost a wash.

But the $1.5 million only covers half a year. What happens in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, 2012, when the county has to pay what appears to be $3 million more — double $1.5 million — in higher wages? Where will the money come from?

Without an increase in revenue, more budget cuts or an increased general fund subsidy will likely be required.

•••

County employee Karen Mulcahy, assistant to Commissioner Steve Sisolak, has a kicker/tuba player in the family.

How’d that happen? Did she just give birth?

Not exactly. The Rancho High School football team adopted her son, Austin Maul, as its new kicker this year. As it turns out, Mulcahy says Austin, a 16-year-old junior, also plays tuba for the school’s marching band. The band uses the football field to practice its halftime shows, which happen during each home football game.

During lulls in band practice, Austin would sometimes have a friend hold a football so he could kick field goals. A few games into the football season, some football players noticed. The team needed a kicker, so Austin tried out for the job and got it.

But doesn’t he need to be marching during football games?

He does both. He kicks field goals during the game, including a 27-yarder last week, then at halftime takes off his helmet, joins the band and marches with the band in his football uniform.

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