CARSON CITY — State lawmakers considered a last-minute effort on Thursday to fund police and fire services in North Las Vegas as the city teeters on the brink of financial ruin.
The Assembly Committee on Government Affairs heard the case for Assembly Bill 503 early in the day, and a late-night phone call was scheduled to work on details as the session draws to a close.
“It’s very important we have the core services in our community,” said Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, D-North Las Vegas. “We need the police, and we need the fire services.”
Last year, city officials declared a state of emergency in Nevada’s third-largest city due to financial hardships. The declaration was to allow the city to avoid pay raises for some union workers, which caused the union representing the bulk of the police officers to file a lawsuit against the city — further complicating matters.
Things haven’t gotten much better, and the state might be forced to take over control of the city if the Legislature and city don’t act, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, told the committee.
“I will be the first person calling the governor’s office asking him to take over the city” if a certain amount of progress isn’t made by August, Kirkpatrick said.
“For the constituents, this is the last chance,” she said.
Her proposal would allow the city to tap into an enterprise fund designated for the repair and upkeep of the city sewer system. Ideally, that money would be a loan, but the reality is it probably won’t be paid back, Kirkpatrick said.
“It is always our intent to transfer the least amount necessary,” North Las Vegas City Manager Tim Hacker told the committee. “The quality of life in our community and this region need to be addressed.”
The city would be able to use the money to restore police and fire services, provide for libraries, parks and other recreational ventures, and to settle legal disputes against the city.
Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, described it as a “blood transfusion” to get the beleaguered city back on its feet.
Representatives for law enforcement and fire services in the region testified the city is severely understaffed and often forced to look to Las Vegas for assistance with emergencies. Correcting those issues will have to be the top priority if this lifeline effort is to proceed, Kirkpatrick said.
“We need to restore, not just maintain, that’s what the people want,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m only willing to do this if we’re going to restore our services from ground zero.”
The committee is set to discuss the issue again Friday after involved parties quickly work to alleviate concerns and develop a workable plan.