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Layoffs loom at Southern Nevada Housing Authority

The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority faces program outsourcing and the layoffs of 40 to 45 employees as it addresses a projected budget shortfall of between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for fiscal 2016.

Management for the agency, which has an annual budget of close to $150 million, said tough decisions have to be made because of the continued decrease in federal funding.

Details of the proposed cuts emerged recently, catching employees unaware. Concerns also have arisen over the possible disruption of programs for poor families served by the agency.

"We had absolutely no input," said Martha Floyd, a 13-year family self-sufficiency coordinator for the authority and chief steward with the Services Employees International Union local 1107, which represents some of the agency‘s employees.

The outsourcing of three programs and the layoffs are included in the agency‘s fiscal 2016 budget, which is on the agenda for approval at the authority‘s Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesdaytoday. The agenda doesn‘t provide specifics of the reductions for the budget that goes into effect Oct. 1.

Under Nevada law, "a clear and complete statement of the topics scheduled to be considered during the meeting" have to be on the agenda.

Housing authority Executive Director John Hill said he met with employees on June 11 and informed them of the upcoming budget challenges, attributed to a reduction in federal funding and failed attempts to reach a contract agreement with the SEIU for more than two years. About 98 percent of the agency‘s funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We are no different than any other agency, which has to think of how to sustain itself for the future," he said Tuesday.

A "sustainability plan" was developed to better position the agency in coming years. The plan proposes outsourcing management for four of 26 public housing properties, inspections for housing quality standards and the operation of the family self-sufficiency program. The layoffs would be a direct result of the outsourcing of those services.

According to a copy of the sustainability plan obtained by the Review-Journal, the agency‘s shortfall is partly due to increased costs of about $300,000 from fiscal year 2015 due to "an increase in salaries and other operating costs."

Hill said the salary costs included merit pay increases for a range of employees who received 2.5 percent to 5 percent more, raises that he had no "authority" to suspend.

On July 10, SEIU President Martin Bassick sent a letter to Hill, indicating the union recently became aware of the plan for outsourcing and layoffs.

"Layoffs will handicap the community the SNRHA serves and puts an obvious financial strain on its employees," the letter reads. "We will continue to make every effort to work with you and the entire Board of Commissioners to resolve the ongoing contract matters between SEIU and SNRHA."

Almost half of the 45 employees facing layoffs are union members, Hill said.

Floyd said outsourcing and layoffs were never discussed during labor management committee meetings. No layoff notifications have yet been issued to employees.

"A reduction in force is not part of the bargaining agreement," said Hill when asked whether the layoffs were discussed with the union.

Under the contract the agency and the union are operating under, if the housing authority determines a need for outsourcing, the union shall be given 60 days notice of the intent to subcontract for such work.

The union did not receive such notice, said Brian Shepherd, state director for the union. "We see it as unfair labor practice," he said.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @yeseniaamaro.

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