North Las Vegas residents to have opportunity to discuss budget constraints with city officials


There's not enough money.

And the clock's ticking away.

North Las Vegas city officials must fill a $22.6 million budget gap before the city hands its budget over to the state June 1.

They've debated for months about whom and what to cut. Everyone has taken hits. Hundreds of people have lost their jobs, and programs have been eliminated in the name of saving money.

Now it's time for you to give your two cents. How are public services? Where should city officials look next?

The North Las Vegas City Council is scheduled to host a town hall meeting 6 p.m. today at the gym inside Silver Mesa Recreation Center, 4025 Allen Lane.

Residents have the opportunity to talk it out with the people making the decisions.

For Councilwoman Anita Wood, this evening's meeting is an opportunity for the council to explain what's going on in the city's budget and get feedback from residents.

"The reality of the situation is when you hear from other people it's very much being made this case of, 'Do we lay off public safety or do we not?' " Wood said. "More accurate issue affecting residents is exactly what do we owe our public safety employees? Do we owe them because of what they do for us -- that they shouldn't have to make any concessions or cuts -- is that really what we, as a community, feel we owe them?

"The reality is they're city employees; they were city employees the date they were hired, when times were good and raises were going out. They're city employees now, and they need to participate just as all the other city employees do."

Wood said the community needs to understand the repercussions of the decisions made and what sacrifices can come as a result.

"If you say we shouldn't look at public safety, then you have to be aware of the sacrifices we have to make as a community to honor that commitment," she said. "Libraries and recreation centers will only open a few days a week. Parks won't be kept as clean. Street sweeping won't happen as much. … It's just making them aware and getting enough input to know what direction they want us to go in."

Mayor Shari Buck said she hopes residents will walk away knowing the city has a "good plan in place, and we're working hard to bridge the gap, and understanding there are services, unfortunately, that need to be furloughed for now."

However, there are no specifics yet about to which services each department has been asked to make cuts. Directors from those departments are meeting with the city manager's office, Buck added.

When it comes to public safety issues, Buck is traditionally the lone vote on the council against laying off police officers and firefighters.

"No. 1, that doesn't keep citizens safe," she said. "No. 2 , that doesn't help with our next goal of bringing new businesses in. … To want to attract businesses and fill these foreclosed homes, we've got to keep our crime rate down, and we've got to be a safe community. That's what people look at more than, 'Am I going to have a recreation center that's open seven days a week?'"

Councilman Richard Cherchio said the city is maintaining as best as it can with the resources it has available. That includes putting two North Las Vegas police officers in one vehicle to cut fuel and other costs.

"Eliminating Movie Madness and the jubilee are fine; we could do that, but those particular things amount to $65,000," Cherchio said. "We're talking about $22.6 million. It's going to take the three c's: cuts, concessions and cooperation. Combine that with growth. We need to do a better job of attracting business over here.

"Our priority is service to the public. What should we be asking them to give back? I'm not comfortable with that. We shouldn't be asking that. They didn't create this problem. They didn't create the unsustainable salary structure handed to this council."

Buck said discussing the issues publicly allows residents to gain a better understanding of the financial problems facing the city.

"There's a harsh reality, but there's hope that things will turn around in the next couple of years," she said. "I hope people will be patient during this difficult time, and when it gets better, we'll bring the programs back that we can. We'll be a vital community again."

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

 

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