Las Vegas could have twice as many layoffs as originally projected now that the city is cutting deeper and saving more of its reserves, Mayor Oscar Goodman said Thursday.
"Maybe double. Maybe more than double," Goodman said at his weekly news conference when asked how many layoffs are expected now.
That would move the original number, 146, up to 300 or more employees let go by the time the fiscal year ends in June.
Goodman also promised the layoffs would be "across the board," affecting public safety departments that have largely been spared from personnel cuts so far.
"I don't like it," Goodman said. "I asked everybody to do the right thing. It wasn't done."
He and other city leaders pressed the city's four employee bargaining groups to give up raises called for in their contracts and take 8 percent pay cuts in each of the next two budget years.
Without the concessions, layoffs would be necessary, they said.
On Wednesday, after learning that the largest bargaining unit wasn't offering any concessions, Goodman and the City Council decided that they would not dig as deep into the city's reserves. The reserve account is kept to help the city handle emergencies.
Goodman said the move wasn't retaliation against the unions.
Still, Chris Collins of the Police Protective Association called the city's approach to the situation "borderline union busting."
"We have not yet 'bargained,' " said Collins. The association represents city marshals.
"We've had informal meetings. We've talked about a lot of things. But they've never budged," he said.
It's frustrating for the employees because the numbers -- how much the deficit is and how many layoffs are needed -- remain a moving target. At one point the deficit was $70 million, but it might be as much as $10 million more now, said Collins.
Employees aren't being recalcitrant, he said. Representatives of all the unions have said they want assurances that if they give up what the city wants, their jobs will be secure. City officials haven't made that promise, citing economic volatility and a continuing slide in tax revenues.
"It's no wonder the city employees don't have any confidence in their ability to bargain with the city," Collins said.
Firefighters would lose "response capabilities" if positions were cut, said Dean Fletcher, president of the firefighters union. So far the department hasn't been touched by layoffs, although at one point 21 people from the fire safety inspection department were on the block.
Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285 is in formal contract negotiations with the city. Talk of cuts is grating because the department is already saving money, Fletcher said.
The department is $6.5 million under budget so far this year and has collected $3.6 million for EMS transports, which is slightly higher than the previous year.
"There's no fat left on our department anywhere," Fletcher said. "We're down to lean and mean."
Goodman and other city leaders have said wage and benefit packages contained in the city's labor contracts have reached a point where they will always strain the city's budget, in good times or bad. In addition to health and insurance benefits, many employees are eligible for annual raises of 6 percent or more.
The city is not the only entity with that concern.
A 2008 Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce study found that Nevada's state and local government employees were among the best paid in the nation. There are also relatively fewer of them, as the study noted that Nevada's government are exceptionally lean.
A sampling of Las Vegas city employee annual pay ranges includes: public information officer, $49,584-$88,150; land surveyor, $67,120-$94,444; water quality technician, $46,551-$72,216; city administrative secretary, $38,773-$61,936; and heavy-equipment operator, $51,323-$72,216.
Las Vegas's 2009 budget funded the equivalent of 2,900 full-time positions.
Alternatives to the 8 percent wage cut -- furloughs, giving up cost-of-living increases -- would reduce costs now but wouldn't address the growth in cost concern, and Goodman said Thursday that "we may as well clean up our act now."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at email@example.com or 702-229-6435.