Henderson’s nonunion workers getting 2 percent bonuses

Henderson’s nonunion employees will receive bonuses totaling $1.1 million, the city confirmed Thursday.

The payments to 533 workers come as city employee costs continue to increase while the city cuts services and increases parks and recreation fees, and continues talk of a possible ballot initiative seeking a property tax increase next year.

City Manager Jacob Snow announced the one-time lump-sum payment equal to 2 percent of pay to the employees Wednesday. The bonus, which the city calls a “pay-for-performance” payment, will be based on each employee’s current salary and will not be associated with overtime or the Public Employees’ Retirement System expense.

The payment excludes the City Council-appointed positions: Snow, City Attorney Josh Reid and City Clerk Sabrina Mercadante. However, other nonunion management across the city will receive the bonus.

This comes after the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1883 agreed to a one-time lump-sum payment equal to 2 percent of total pay at a cost of $450,000 in a contract approved by the City Council in June. The union has not received cost-of-living increases since 2009 but continued to receive merit increases.

The president of the Henderson Seniors’ Auxiliary said she is happy for the nonunion employees because they have taken the brunt of city’s employee cuts during the past few years.

“I have to say that I’m honestly happy for the employees,” said Judie Boyer, who has been outspoken about recent cuts made to some of the city’s senior programs. “I know they’ve all taken large cuts. I know what the young people (at Heritage Park Senior Facility) have taken.”

The city has reduced staff by 16 percent since 2009, with most coming out of nonunion positions. Compensation for nonunion employees had declined 6 percent to 11 percent. They have not received a cost-of-living increase during that time.

The public reaction is different from the backlash earlier this year when Snow gave top managers professional allowances. In April and May, Snow approved a program that gave 66 top-level employees payments ranging from $250 to $550, and totaled $43,950. The program was stopped after the May payments.

The additional pay for nonunion and some union employees — the city is negotiating with five other bargaining units — comes two months after the City Council approved $2.02 million in fee increases and service cuts to help bridge a $17 million annual infrastructure deficit. The city also had a $4.6 million operational budget deficit for its 2015 fiscal year.

The fee increases included raising swimming pool admission fees by $1, eliminating bread pickup for $17,000, cutting hours at recreation centers and the Heritage Park Senior Facility by an average of 10 hours per week, and eliminating the senior food program at the facility on Saturdays.

Other citizens on community boards involved with parks and recreation declined to comment because they said they didn’t have enough information.

Victor Joecks, a researcher and executive vice president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas that tracks public employee pay, said these payment to union and nonunion employees should end the talk of any tax increase.

“If you’re handing out millions of dollars worth of raises to union and nonunion employees, at that point your financial challenges are spending, not a lack of tax dollars,” said Joecks, who lives in Henderson.

The City Council was informed of the potential “pay-for-performance” bonuses during the annual budget hearing May 20, but no details were given at that time. On Thursday, city spokeswoman Karina Milani said the payment model will be different in the future, but will continue.

“The pay-for-performance model will continue to be refined, allowing employees to be eligible for variable percentage or lump-sum payment in future years,” Milani said. “That percentage will be based on performance evaluations, as well as the amount of money the city has available for the performance pool.”

While Boyer said she was happy for the city’s rank-and-file employees, she believes some of the management should make some sacrifices.

“I would like to see the big shots take a 2 percent decrease,” she said.

Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3882. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.

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