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North Las Vegas budget calls for more police, fire, business staff

North Las Vegas’ main budget priority is to hire more police, fire and business-related staff, but budget cuts in recent years have left the city with little money to do so.

Major department heads told the City Council on Wednesday that they need 130 more full-time employees paid from the general fund to improve service levels and address growth. The city has about 1,230 full-time employees, down from about 2,000 a decade ago.

The city was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession and barely avoided a state takeover.

City staff is slowly climbing in numbers but has remained low even as the population has increased from 197,160 in 2006 to 230,788 in 2014, according to the most recent census data available.

The city’s general fund is projected at $139.65 million for fiscal year 2016-17, an estimated $7.65 million increase over the previous year. The city’s fiscal year ends June 30.

Most new employees would be in community development and compliance, as well as public safety. It would cost $13 million a year to hire them all.

The city is anticipating a $5 million revenue increase from additional tax and permit dollars that could cover about 50 full-time employees, but the additional staffing would leave a $7.7 million deficit.

It doesn’t have enough reserves to pull from to cover the additional staffing costs.

A tentative budget submitted to the Nevada Department of Taxation on April 14 wasn’t balanced because it includes the $7.7 million net deficit that represents the cost to hire 80 of the 130 potential employees department heads requested.

The city can submit a balanced budget if it doesn’t factor in those employees.

In the budget presentation Wednesday, city Finance Director Darren Adair described the city as a plane with obstacles ahead that include higher debt payments and a requirement to stop relying on transfers from the water and sewer utility to the general fund.

He said major developments such as the $1 billion Faraday Future electric car factory at the Apex Industrial Park, the Villages at Tule Springs housing development and the 215 Beltway business park are additional “engines” for the plane.

“Fuel is what powers those engines, fuel comes from employees and staff,” said Adair.

Adair said that the outcome of union negotiations could also help address the city’s deficit. Higher contract costs would allow fewer new hires, he said.

The final budget will be discussed at 6 p.m. May 18 in City Council chambers.

Contact Alexander S. Corey at acorey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0270. Find @acoreynews on Twitter.

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