County employees facing prospect of hundreds of layoffs

Monday will be a day of reckoning for many Clark County employees as commissioners hammer out a final budget that is likely to call for hundreds of layoffs.

No one could say how many workers eventually will receive pink slips because department heads and county management were still figuring out last week how to cut staffing to offset a $57 million shortfall.

As it turns out, layoffs are a moving target.

County Manager Virginia Valentine last month asked department heads to come up with plans for cutting personnel by 8 percent to save $30 million.

They submitted their plans a couple of weeks ago, but Valentine's office didn't accept all the suggestions, leading to a fair amount of discussion, county spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Managers are unlikely to decide staff cuts by Monday's budget hearing, which means an estimate for layoffs will be put in the budget, Pappa said.

Commissioners on Monday will approve the final budget that must be balanced and sent to the state by June 1. The budget isn't set in stone, however.

"You can make adjustments later," Pappa said.

Commissioner Larry Brown noted that both the county's largest employee union and the firefighters union are immersed in bargaining and might make concessions after June 1 that could save jobs.

In that case, the county could lower the number of layoffs forecast in the budget, Brown said. Such adjustments are allowed as long as the budget remains balanced.

Early budget estimates stated that the county must lay off 530 people or trim wages and benefits by 14 percent to make up the entire $57 million shortfall.

Valentine pursued a less severe course.

She ordered 8 percent cuts in staffing for departments paid for by the general operating fund.

The layoff order doesn't apply to those funded with user fees, such as McCarran International Airport.

Brown and other commissioners have said they oppose snipping staff in every department by the same rate because some services are considered more vital.

Employees' compensation also varies according to job.

Average pay and benefits last year were $81,000 for an SEIU worker, $162,000 for a prosecutor and $187,000 for a firefighter.

So far, the county has laid off 105 workers from development services and comprehensive planning and will lay off about 60 employees from University Medical Center.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland or 702-455-4519.