Las Vegas official: Fast cuts forced

Las Vegas officials had expected revenues to drop 2.5 percent in the current fiscal year, but the decrease has been in the neighborhood of 18 percent, meaning the city has to cut more deeply and more swiftly than planned.

“It was just too fast in our fiscal year not to react,” City Manager Betsy Fretwell said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point … that we have to make adjustments on the personnel side.”

In all, the city is eliminating the equivalent of 74 full-time positions. Of those, 54 were vacant and are being eliminated. The remaining 20 include 17 full-time and two part-time workers who are being laid off and one person who will transfer to another job.

The eliminated positions are spread across most city departments, with Public Works, Leisure Services and Field Operations taking the biggest cuts. The only departments not to take staffing cuts in this round are City Council, Human Resources, and Fire and Rescue.

Officials would not say which departments are suffering layoffs because not all of the affected workers have been told yet.

The cuts will trim $7.8 million from the budget. Still, projections show the city will be $36.9 million short of the remaining $512 million in expenses. Reserves will cover the shortfall but are still being drained more quickly than planned.

Also, all vacancies are being frozen until March, construction projects paid out of the general fund will be delayed if they have not already started, and travel and training is suspended.

The main cause is depressed collections from the sales tax. That money is a main revenue source for the general fund, which pays for city government operations.

Overall revenue was expected to be $499 million, but projections now peg it at $475 million. It probably will be worse in next year’s budget. Instead of holding steady at around $500 million, as was once expected, revenues are expected to drop further to $462 million.

That means the layoff pain could be just beginning, Councilman Ricki Barlow said.

“This is just a drop in the ocean as to many more cuts,” he said. “I’m just in awe right now.”

Fretwell made the same point, noting statistics showing that public-sector jobs make up a greater share of Southern Nevada’s employment than at any time in the past 20 years as private-sector jobs have disappeared.

“We’re out of balance,” she said. “It’s unsustainable.”

These are not Las Vegas’ first layoffs of the financial crunch. In April 2008, the city eliminated 31 position in the Building and Safety Department.

But that department was funded by fees on builders. As construction contracted, there was no work for the department’s workers to do.

The current cuts are different because they come from the city’s general fund, which covers most personnel costs for the city.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at or 702-229-6435.

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