To the editor:
In an April 22 Las Vegas Review-Journal story (“Panel told not to explore Henderson pay”) and in an April 26 Review-Journal editorial on the same subject, the entire work of the Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee that led to the recommendations to the Henderson City Council was not accurately represented. Most importantly, the committee did consider the issue of pay and benefits of its employees.
When the budget committee (24 members of citizens and business leaders) was convened, the city of Henderson had already begun a classification and compensation study and had already implemented several cuts to employee pay and benefits. More than 200 employees had already left city employment, and current employees had already seen compensation reductions of up to 11 percent. Benefits had also been previously reduced, and city employees were already shouldering more of the cost of their health insurance.
The city has excellent relationships with its employees as well the employees’ unions, and those relationships enabled the city to seek — and sometimes negotiate — mutually agreed upon concessions from its unions. The city disclosed all of this information to us during the Budget Ad Hoc Committee process, and we were very pleased with their efforts to point out this very important part of the budget discussion.
Henderson’s employee-to-citizen ratio is one of the lowest in the state. Henderson does more with fewer people, and those employees provide a high level of service to the residents they serve. The committee’s task at the time was to make recommendations to deal with a $2 million operating deficit (now at $5 million) and a $17 million infrastructure deficit. We recommended cuts to programs, fee increases, a broad-based fee study of parks and recreation programs, and the outsourcing of more services. These recommendations for the most part addressed the $2 million operating deficit and showed that the city can manage its operating budget with existing tax revenue.
However, the $17 million infrastructure deficit could not be solved without addressing the property tax. This infrastructure includes the maintenance and repair of important things that make Henderson a premier city, including parks and trails, streets, city fleet, traffic control and flood channels. Henderson’s tax rate has remained unchanged for 23 years, and it is the lowest of any major city in the state, at 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The closest competitor is Reno at 96 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
While tax rates did not change, what residents pay in property tax is significantly lower than it was five years ago because property values plummeted. We would be remiss in our review if we did not point out that, simply put, Henderson residents are paying less now than they were but they are receiving the same services. No one relished the idea of raising taxes, but after 23 years and the steep decline in taxes that residents are paying, a recommendation of an increase was necessary. It was not a recommendation that was made lightly. This committee worked diligently, gave of their own time and conducted a lot of research on all the issues before making informed recommendations.
Committee members challenged the city of Henderson on many aspects of its budget and found that the city has been remarkably responsible in the handling of its finances. Personnel costs are a major part of the city’s budget, but 70 percent of the city’s budget is dedicated to police, fire, emergency medical, and parks and recreation programs. Those are labor-intensive services. They are also services that are most important to a community and part of the reason that we call Henderson home and a great place to do business.
The writers are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of Henderson’s Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee.
NBA and Sterling
To the editor:
I find it interesting that, for the NBA, it is so facile for political correctness to trump freedom of speech in the case of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. I urge caution, as that choice might come back to bite the league one of these days. Not since the centurions cast lots for the garments of Jesus have we seen so many predators circling the bones of the Clippers owner in search of a windfall.
As founders intended
To the editor:
We should never have any doubt about the absolute brilliance of our Founding Fathers, the drafters of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Their foresight was truly almost unbelievable.
I state this with reference to the recent “showdown” between Cliven Bundy’s guys and the federal guys. The Second Amendment to our Bill of Rights states “a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The intent of the entire Bill of Rights, all 10 amendments, was to protect us from big government, from illegal search and seizure, from being forced to quarter soldiers and yes, to guarantee the right to bear arms.
The most recent argument against the peoples’ right to have guns is that “we don’t need a militia to protect us from big government.” Not so. The Founding Fathers foresaw that there just might be a situation wherein the people might have to stand up for their rights, whether by a sit-in or a protest march. In Bundy vs. the Brown Shirts, without even discussing the right or wrong of either, Mr. Bundy would have been squashed like a bug if his militia, the American people, had not come to support him. We saw Americans standing up for one another. They exercised the right and even the duty to do so.
God bless the memory, the souls, the wisdom and the foresight of the Madisons, Masons and the Jeffersons for the legacy with which they blessed our United States of America.