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North Las Vegas City Council to hold special meeting on budget shortfall

It looks like the bleeding could continue in North Las Vegas.

The City Council is holding a special meeting Wednesday to discuss how to deal with the city’s $52 million budget shortfall. That discussion is likely to include scores of potential layoffs that could begin as early as January.

While the city won’t reveal how many jobs could be eliminated until then, sources say between 200 and 300 positions, including most city departments, could be on the chopping block if the city and its three employee unions don’t soon agree on cost-saving measures.

"We’re not in a position to release the details right now," said Juliet Casey, a city spokeswoman. "We are still meeting with the unions in hopes of whittling the numbers down."

The city doesn’t discuss specifics of union talks while they are in progress, she said.

The "budget reduction plan" to be presented to the council Wednesday is preliminary, the city said. The council will vote on a final plan in November.

The city laid off 188 employees in June. Another 43 — all North Las Vegas Detention Center workers — were let go this month after the detention center lost about a third of its inmates to a facility for federal inmates in Pahrump. The city has about 1,800 employees.

The city’s largest employee union, the Teamsters, sat down with the city Monday but was unable to come to an agreement, said Steve Harney, the union’s vice president.

He wouldn’t give specifics about the talks but said they will continue next week and "are moving in the right direction."

"It went very well, and we’re looking toward the goal," he said. "We want to save jobs."

Jeff Hurley, president of the city’s firefighters union, said his union also is in talks with the city about concessions for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.

Those concessions would include a reduction in cost-of-living raises and an elimination of merit or step raises for the year, he said.

The firefighters union agreed in early June to give up 2010 cost-of-living and merit raises to save the jobs of 16 firefighters.

The city’s police union did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

City Council members have pleaded with unions to offer up concessions to save jobs.

"How ugly it will be will depend on how well unions work with the city," Councilman Richard Cherchio said. "None of the layoffs are inevitable."

Mayor Shari Buck, at a council meeting earlier this month, said Council members "lose sleep every night thinking and worrying about our employees and our citizens and about what this city is going through."

"We ask again, humbly, for our employees to work with us," she said.

The city, which has been dealing with plummeting tax revenues, has undergone several rounds of budget cuts since December 2008. It still must trim $10 million from the 2010 budget and $42 million from the 2011 budget.

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