Las Vegas favors shared services with North Las Vegas but not if it hurts

Las Vegas officials say they’re willing to help their neighbor North Las Vegas avoid financial catastrophe, but not at the expense of their own residents.

On Wednesday the Las Vegas City Council discussed progress on a shared services agreement with North Las Vegas that’s supposed to save both cities money.

But on the heels of a revelation from North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee that his predecessors were “looting” special funds to make ends meet, the stakes for the shared services deal are higher than ever.

The “looting” accusation Lee hurled at previous North Las Vegas leaders comes as his administration is trying to wrap its arms around what they believe to be a $150 million gap between what they have and what they need to pay expenses and maintain a financial cushion for the next seven years.

Officials from both cities hope the recently enacted shared services can help North Las Vegas begin a financial recovery.

“I worry about whether we can save enough money to make up for the deficit here, the structural deficit you have,” Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin told Darren Adair, acting finance director in North Las Vegas, and Jeffrey Buchanan, the interim city manager, following a presentation on the deal.

The two cities made the shared services agreement in November. It calls on both sides, working through an 11-member committee, to explore ways to use cooperation to cut costs or raise revenue in everything from economic redevelopment to information technology.

They’re scheduled to meet regularly through April to identify potential opportunities. The discussion Wednesday was a progress report on the agreement. No action was taken.

It seeks to build on an existing agreement to share jail services that Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell says has generated about $6 million to $7 million in new annual revenue for Las Vegas and saved North Las Vegas about $15 million.

“The partnership is working pretty well,” Fretwell said.

But Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said she’s worried the previous jail agreement meant more work for Las Vegas corrections workers and she doesn’t want the new agreement to become a drain on the city.

“Some of the responsibilities that were North Las Vegas’ regarding intake weren’t being done by North Las Vegas but falling to Las Vegas,” Tarkanian said. “I have a great concern we don’t cannibalize our own situation.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285. Follow him on Twitter @BenSpillman702.