North Las Vegas looks to settle dispute with public safety unions for $10 million

North Las Vegas will look to free up as much as $10 million to settle a two-year-old contract dispute with its public safety unions by tapping into a trio of funding sources.

The city will consider cutting its statutorily required 8 percent ending fund balance to come up with some $2.5 million in savings for the settlement, the Review-Journal has learned. City leaders would have to change the city’s charter to allow for such a move, but haven’t said when they might put the item on a City Council agenda.

Officials can also rely on between $6 and $8 million in employee attrition savings and draws on the city’s More Cops sales tax funds, city Finance Director Darren Adair told City Council members last month.

Available dollars from each city-specified funding source add up to a settlement worth only about 40 cents on the dollar to city bargaining groups, who filed a $25 million suit to block a suspension of pay raises under a city-declared “fiscal emergency” in July 2012. A District Court judge last month ruled the city had no right to suspend the raises.

North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association President Leonard Cardinale isn’t sure that’s the best the city can do.

“I’ve always said we’d be willing to bend over backwards once the city shows us the books,” Cardinale said Monday. “Unfortunately at this point, the majority of people I talk to would rather see the state come in and take over the books so at least we could get a look at them.”

Firefighters Association President Jeff Hurley is not one of those people.

Hurley said he never doubted the city would be able to come up with settlement funds, in part because of officials’ recent candor at the bargaining table.

“I’m disappointed (Cardinale) would even say that,” Hurley said. “We’ve had complete transparency with the city. … No one knows what receivership does, all we know is that it doesn’t benefit the city and it doesn’t benefit the taxpayers.”

Police Officers Association President Mike Yarter doubts the city has a “pot of gold” hiding somewhere in its balance sheets.

He too wasn’t in much of a hurry to take the blame for a potential Nevada Department of Taxation-imposed tax increase under receivership.

“We’re OK with the numbers the city has put out there so far,” Yarter said. “If they were able to pay us what’s in the contract, they would.”

“I wouldn’t want (receivership), as a North Las Vegas citizen. I think we would be the fall guys and our politicians would get a free pass.”

City Council members are expected to hear the case for a city settlement plan at a special city council meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact reporter James DeHaven at 702-477-3839 or jdehaven@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDeHaven.

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