Tuesday, May 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
The North Las Vegas firefighters union refused to accept concessions sought by the city Monday and asked city leaders to consider consolidating the department into any of the valley’s other fire departments.
Because the union won't accept furloughs and a continued salary freeze, the city intends to lay off 57 firefighters — about a third of the department, said Jeff Hurley, a fire department captain and president of the local union.
“Those are astronomical cuts,” Hurley said. “You don’t have a fire department anymore.”
A morning bargaining session between the North Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1607 and Timothy Hacker, North Las Vegas city manager, ended in a stalemate.
The negotiations comes on the heels of meetings earlier this year between the city and the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1607 to inform the groups of the $33 million budget gap the city was facing in its upcoming budget.
“There are severe budget issues in North Las Vegas,” Hurley said. “We’re at a point where we can no longer provide adequate service to our citizens.”
According to Hurley, the North Las Vegas Fire Department responded to more than 25,000 medical and fire emergencies in 2011.
The adopted total budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30 is about $504.9 million, with a general fund budget of about $125 million.
As recently as 2008 -- before the recession -- the city's annual budget stood at $747.8 million. The general-fund budget for that year was about $210 million.
Hacker has until June 1 to present a budget plan to city leaders. He said firefighters shouldn't be surprised by discussion of deep layoffs in light of their refusal to accept the city's offers.
“We’re not bullying anyone,” Hacker said. “We’ve been talking about the budget deficit since January.”
An International Association of Firefighters Local 1607 member's average salary and benefits total $139,000, according to city officials.
The city's proposal called for prolonging the concessions already in place that would keep salaries frozen for another two years and do away with a program that allows union members to sell back to the city their unused days off. The city also called for furloughs.
“We can’t pledge no layoffs,” Hacker said.
The fire department has accepted concessions over the past four years and have made more than $20 million in cuts over that period, Hurley said. Firefighters have not received cost-of-living increases, holiday pay or raises based on merit.
The cuts have driven nearly 30 firefighters to find jobs in other municipalities, Hurley said.
“Since 2008 firefighters have received pink slips every year,” Hurley said. “There was this constant pressure on the families.”
Consolidation would be a seamless move, said Hurley, adding that city leaders are already considering sharing services with the North Las Vegas Police and the Las Vegas Metro Police.
Consolidation is not off the table completely, but Hacker said North Las Vegas aims to provide a quality service to its residents.
Hacker plans to continue meeting with the unions to find a way to close the budget gap.
“The budget will be balanced,” Hacker said. “We don’t have a choice.”