Financially troubled North Las Vegas approves $492 million budget for 2015

One of the longest budget seasons in North Las Vegas’ recent history is finally over.

A $492 million fiscal 2015 spending plan unanimously adopted by city leaders Tuesday uses negotiated union concessions and nonlayoff departmental cost savings to close an $18 million budget gap projected through June 2015.

It also closes the book on a pair of collective bargaining agreements with city police and Teamsters union employees, all while settling a two-year, multimillion-dollar legal battle over pay raises first suspended under a city-declared “fiscal emergency” in June 2012.

City leaders credited state officials, municipal neighbors and especially city employees for helping balance this year’s books, a feat plenty of bond­holders and residents were skeptical they could pull off in the wake of a $25 million District Court judgment awarded to four city bargaining groups in January.

“I want to thank our negotiating team, who spent a lot of sleepless nights working on this,” City Councilman Isaac Barron said, “and I really can’t say thank you enough to our employees, who really stepped up and took one for the city.

“I know you probably don’t believe me, but I never had any doubts we could get it done.”

North Las Vegas plans to burn through more than $126 million in general funds through next June, more than two-thirds of which will go toward employee pay and benefits.

Nonpublic safety spending is set to fall by nearly 4 percent over the same time period, part of an across-the-board drop-off in city library, parks, public works and judicial expenditures.

Property and hotel tax revenues included in the city’s final fiscal year budget came in around $465,000 less than anticipated under a tentative budget unveiled last month.

Officials made up some of that difference through attrition savings — dollars left on the table via the termination of vacant positions once funded by the city.

Teamsters union employees helped bridge most of the gap, rolling nearly half of their agreed upon $1.2 million legal settlement into health care benefits that won’t hit the city’s books until next year.

Taken together, City Finance Director Darren Adair figures those revisions don’t amount to a “significant change” from April’s draft spending plan.

Adair expects to send off the city’s final budget to the state tax department next week. Then, he said, the real work gets underway.

“I have to keep reminding people that it’s not all roses, that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Adair said, pointing to bond payments expected to balloon by $7 million starting in 2016. “It’s going to be a challenge for the council. … So the focus going forward is going to be growth and new revenue.”

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.