Las Vegas Police Protective Association wins raises in arbitration

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, on Wednesday won an arbitration award that hands officers two separate salary increases and a higher employer contribution for health insurance plans.

The award represents an estimated $10 million increase in salary and benefits costs for the Police Department, said Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. The ruling will benefit about 2,800 Metropolitan Police Department and Clark County Detention Center officers.

The arbitrator’s decision, which officials received Wednesday, gives officers a 0.75 percent wage increase effective July 1, 2013. A second wage increase of 0.75 percent will kick in on Jan. 1, 2014.

The department’s contribution to each employee’s hospitalization and health insurance plan premium will increase about 14 percent, from $8,572.73 annually to $9,726.62, under the ruling.

Gillespie said he’s still reviewing the numbers with staff and discussing how to cover the cost. He’s not anticipating the city of Las Vegas or Clark County to foot the bill, though.

“It’s a $10 million increase from a salary and benefits standpoint,” he said. “The city and county have made it pretty clear to me moving toward arbitration that if the award did come back in favor of the PPA, we would not receive additional funds from them.”

Police union Executive Director Chris Collins called the ruling a “fair award.”

“We understand the economy is just now recovering,” Collins said. “We weren’t going to ask for anything that would jeopardize the financial health of the county, city, or Metro.”

Police and correctional officers haven’t received a raise in five years, Collins said, noting they instead have made contract concessions in that time period.

After looking at more recent economic numbers, Collins said it was time to push for the slight increase.

“A small increase of pay was warranted, and the arbitrator agreed with us,” he said.

For the officers who will see the increase, it could be a sign of things returning to normal, Collins said.

“This is the first raise they’ve gotten in five years. Maybe in the future, if the economy continues to recover, they could look forward to more raises.”

Collins said the three-day arbitration in September was very professional with no animosity or ill will between the two sides.

The news of the award, dated Monday, comes at a high-profile time for the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget. Clark County commissioners on Tuesday will decide on a proposed “More Cops” sales tax increase to pay for officers in the Metropolitan Police Department and police departments in North Las Vegas, Henderson, Mesquite and Boulder City.

There are two More Cops proposals. One would increase the 8.1 percent sales tax rate by 0.15-percentage points to 8.25 percent. The other proposal is half that amount, a 0.075 percentage-point increase.

That debate has plenty of sticking points. Some commissioners want the Metropolitan Police Department to help bridge its budget gap, which Gillespie estimates at $30 million, by tapping into the More Cops account, which has about $124 million from a quarter-cent sales tax for officers that started in 2005. That tax has funded about 520 Las Vegas officers.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, also a member of the Police Department’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, said the arbitration award gives the sheriff something more he’ll need to justify to the public.

‘The general public is saying they don’t want to be paying more taxes when people are getting raises,” said Sisolak, who has opposed raising the sales tax rate.

Commissioner Tom Collins is pushing for a 0.15 percent sales tax rate increase. That’s the full amount the Legislature authorized the county to enact after Gillespie lobbied lawmakers to enact a second 0.25-percentage point sales tax increase. In an advisory vote in 2004, Clark County residents supported a full 0.5-percentage point increase in the sales tax rate for officers. Lawmakers in 2005 allowed the county to enact just half that amount.

Collins said a smaller 0.075 percentage-point increase isn’t enough to provide departments with the staffing they need.

Collins also has said it’s important to avoid the potential impact the tourism economy would suffer with fewer officers to keep streets safe.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.