Las Vegas Sun

August 30, 2014

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North Las Vegas financial troubles continue

North Las Vegas, which made major cuts toward a balanced budget, could face a $15.6 million hit if it loses a lawsuit filed by representatives of police and firefighters.

City Finance Director Al Zochowski told the Committee on Local Government Finance, an arm of the Nevada Taxation Department, that it reduced its budget by $33 million but could not get agreement from police and firefighters to give up benefits in their contracts.

The city council suspended some terms in the contracts of the public safety officers who then filed suit.

Committee Chairman Marvin Leavitt asked Zochowski how much the city would owe if it lost the suit. He said it would be $9.6 million for the current year and going into next year the total could be $15.6 million.

Zochowski told Leavitt that the city is current in paying all its bills.

But the committee told Zochowski it wanted a financial report of the city at every meeting for the next year.

"They are not out of the woods yet," said Leavitt after the meeting Tuesday.

When it could not reach agreement with police and firefighters, the city council took emergency action to suspend cost-of-living and merit pay increases for fire and police officers and hold off on their uniform allowances.

Zochowski painted a hopeful picture that the city and the police and firefighters could get back to the bargaining table. He said these groups did not realize the dire financial straits of the city.

"I'm hopeful for a settlement," he told the committee.

He said a 3 percent increase in sewer and water fees could help the city.

A major change came with the closure of the detention center and contracting with Las Vegas to house the prisoners. The five year contract with Las Vegas will save the city $16 million a year.

Ordinances were adopted to suspend merit and cost of living increases for all appointed and confidential employees. This staff is required to take 10 furlough days without pay each year. It is estimated employees will receive an average $18,000 less than they would have if these actions were not taken.

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