Noth Las Vegas City council ponders budget problem

Some of the steps now contemplated by members of the North Las Vegas City Council to close a projected $8.6 million budget gap make good sense -- and some don't.

Raising property taxes on residents who already pay the highest such taxes in the valley? Forget about it.

But the proposal to outsource parks and building maintenance, as well as legal, payroll and custodial services to private firms? Get out the pencils, please.

North Las Vegas has experienced plummeting property tax and other revenues for years. It has eliminated or frozen about 1,000 positions since late 2008.

Last June, 188 workers were laid off. An additional 44, all from the North Las Vegas jail, were let go in October. The city now employs about 1,300 people.

North Las Vegas' original 2012 budget, approved in May, included cuts to reflect an expected $30.3 million decline in revenues. Those cuts included slashing 258 positions across city departments, including some police and firefighters, unless concessions could be reached with municipal unions.

But that plan was thrown into disarray last week when a local judge sided with the police union, holding the current contract prohibits the city from proceeding with layoffs of nearly 40 union members, including a dozen police officers. The city's firefighter union has filed a similar lawsuit to halt the layoffs of 35 of its members. Because the firefighter contract, as amended earlier this year, contains language nearly identical to that of the police contract, the city now expects to have to add those positions back into its budget, too.

The contracts in question don't date from the last century; they were all signed in recent years -- long after it became obvious that city revenues were in free fall.

So where was legal counsel to recommend the city include boilerplate "escape clauses," allowing it to cut back manpower should revenues continue to fall?

Who on earth signs a contract that will guarantee de facto bankruptcy and a threatened state takeover of the city's financial management -- absent wildly unrealistic revenue growth -- during the Great Recession?