About 60 county workers to lose jobs


About 60 employees in Clark County's development services will be laid off today , the latest casualties of the area's ailing construction industry.

County officials on Thursday wouldn't identify the jobs that will be slashed because employees who will be affected hadn't been notified yet.

More layoffs could be in store in other departments as the county faces declining tax revenue and an impending money grab from the state Legislature.

"The action we're taking in development services could be a precursor of more to come," county spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Property tax revenue is already showing a $30 million dip from last year and is expected to fall further after property owners appeal their assessed values, he said. Plus, the governor's budget plan, if enacted, could cost the county about $125 million a year.

No specific departments have been targeted yet for future layoffs, he added.

This is the third wave of layoffs in development services, a department that has seen builders' fees for projects -- its main source of revenue -- fall precipitously.

In the previous two rounds of staffing cuts, some workers were bumped to other jobs and some were reinstated after the state labor board ruled that they were laid off improperly.

This time, there's hardly any place left to transfer workers, so nearly all who are let go today will remain out of a job, county and union officials said.

The latest layoffs will whittle staffing to 170 people. Roughly 380 jobs in the department have been eliminated since the peak of the building boom five years ago.

"It's kind of a really unfortunate sign of the times," said Nick DiArchangel, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union Local 1107. "It's a hard thing to see."

The number of building permits hovers at about 42,000, a steep decline from almost 100,000 in 2005.

"There's no sign of it turning around," Pappa said.

A year ago, the county slashed 67 jobs in development services, mostly affecting building inspectors.

In 2009, 51 jobs were eliminated in the department's civil division. About half the workers were laid off and half transferred to other departments.

Of those let go, about 20 regained their jobs after the Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board order them reinstated. The county paid more than $2 million in back pay and benefits.

The board ruled that county managers misused the exemption that lets them keep less-senior workers whom they believe have crucial skills and knowledge. The labor contract generally calls for laying off the more junior employees first and the senior ones last.

DiArchangel said the union will ensure that the county follows proper guidelines for laying off workers. But union leaders don't foresee problems this time, he said.

When a department that depends on fees shows a sharp decrease in workload, no one can argue against county officials cutting jobs, DiArchangel said. "They have the flexibility to say we need to lay these people off."

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

 

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