Layoffs in Southern Nevada Health District’s 2015 budgets

Layoffs are coming for the Southern Nevada Health District.

The health district board approved a $61 million budget for 2015 on Thursday. This includes budget cuts of up to $6 million, which could equate to 50 to 60 layoffs, board Vice Chair and Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers said.

Board members did not specify which jobs will be eliminated, Beers said Friday, but the layoffs should happen in just a few weeks. Chief Health Officer Joseph Iser said some of the cuts may come from the nursing division.

The health district didn’t adjust its spending as revenue from property taxes has fallen in recent years. That forced the district to spend out of its savings for years, creating a deficit of over $10 million.

“[The district] was living in a budget deficit and not coming to terms with that,” Iser said.

When Iser became chief health officer last September, he had two choices — to make cuts in one fell swoop or divided over three years. The better option, Iser said, was to spread it out. By the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the deficit should be gone.

The 2015 budget will still spend $4.6 million more than it plans to takes in, but Iser said nixing the deficit all at once would have created too great of a disruption to personnel and patients.

In Thursday’s meeting, the board waived its own policy mandating that 16.6 percent of the health district’s operating budget must remain in the general fund at all times. The state requires the agency to keep that number at 4 percent.

A motion to stop the transfer of $1.2 million from the general fund to a building fund was put forward during the meeting. Several years ago, the health district moved out of its offices saying there were structural concerns. The offices it now occupies have very high rent, so accumulating money in a new building fund will help the deficit in the long-term, Iser said.

Cutting the transfer to the building fund would have saved eight to 10 jobs, Iser said. It was voted down.

Some details of the budget are not yet clear. The funds were distributed to their respective categories, but within the categories things aren’t set in stone, such as how the health district will deal with transportation during the year. Board members discussed the ability to amend the budget as the year progresses, depending on revenue or spending swings.

Contact reporter Annalise Porter at aporter@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.