County budget woes likely to mean more staff cuts


Eighty-two workers would be laid off and 126 vacant jobs would be cut under a budget plan that sparked tense discussion among Clark County commissioners Wednesday.

The prolonged recession has left the county with a $100 million shortfall in its $1.2 billion general fund, which covers daily operations and is fed mostly with taxes and fees.

The reduced staffing would save the county about $39 million and offset money that must be pulled from a reserve to fill the gaping budget hole.

It's the third year in a row the county has had to slash jobs.

"This is another round of significant cuts," Assistant County Manager Ed Finger said. "There's going to be another round of cuts and another round of collective bargaining."

The county is entering into negotiations with its largest union to renew a labor contract set to expire in July.

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 recently agreed to take a 2 percent pay cut, saving about $8 million or roughly 80 jobs. Managers and nonunion workers also will take a 2 percent pay cut, saving an additional $2.3 million. The workers also are no longer receiving cost-of-living raises but will still receive merit raises of as much as 4 percent.

That's a start but far from enough, County Manager Don Burnette said.

Commissioners picked over the proposed budget and debated whether the plan offered the best remedy.

They will resume discussing the budget on Tuesday and finalize it on May 16 so it can be sent to the state by the June 1 deadline.

If these layoffs are implemented, they would push the county's total layoffs to 446 since the recession began.

Departments that would suffer the most layoffs are:

■ Juvenile justice, 14

■ Real property management, 13

■ Assessor, 12

■ County manager's office, 11

The Elections Department would lose 16 vacant jobs, family services would cut 12, real property would slash 11 and information technology would cut 10.

Department heads were asked to submit plans for 9 percent budget cuts. But as in previous years, the proposed cuts were wide-ranging, with one department's as high as 9.6 percent and some at zero percent.

Commissioners agreed that it wasn't feasible for the cuts to be the same in every department.

For instance, keeping adequate staffing at the jail was crucial for the guards' safety and the public's, Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said.

County managers explained that most of the zeros showed up with constables and justices of the peace, who might have one or two people in an office. They cut all they could two years ago, officials said.

But Commissioner Steve Sisolak, clearly irked, argued that even the smallest, most threadbare department could give up something now.

"Everybody should have to contribute," Sisolak said. "We've got to be fair to everybody."

District Attorney David Roger's plan called for eliminating seven vacant jobs but no layoffs. Roger has stated he needs his current staffing to adequately prosecute criminals.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani haggled with Roger about why he was pursuing roughly 80 death penalty cases that ate up his attorneys' time and cost millions of dollars.

Roger said the volume was partly because appeals slow the process and cause cases to logjam. Also, he believes in prosecuting to the full extent of the law, he said.

But Commissioner Larry Brown said Roger might consider accepting more life-without-parole sentences if that will save some law enforcement jobs.

In a budget crisis, those in charge must make difficult decisions that affect a lot of people, Brown said. "This year we're going to make bigger decisions than last year."

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

 

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