North Las Vegas OKs plan to cut budget

It happened quickly and quietly.

The North Las Vegas City Council after a 12-minute meeting Monday approved a budget reduction plan for the cash-strapped city that includes the elimination of 251 jobs starting as soon as January.

But the plan sounds worse than it is. The city and its largest employee union, Teamsters Local 14, reached a tentative agreement last week that, if approved by a vote of union members and the City Council, will save $17.7 million and 144 of the targeted jobs.

The city’s police and firefighters unions, meanwhile, continue talks with the city and have said they expect to come to cost-saving agreements soon. If those agreements add up to enough toward the city’s estimated $35.1 million shortfall through fiscal year 2011, 71 public safety jobs could be saved.

"I want to stress the city is and will continue to work with all other bargaining units" to save jobs, Maryann Ustick, acting city manager, said.

And some of the 251 positions are already vacant, meaning that closer to 200 people — including 33 firefighters and 11 police officers — would be in danger of losing their jobs next year if the city and its employee unions do not agree on cost-saving measures.

Nobody from the audience commented during the meeting, and council members had little to say before their votes. At last month’s budget meeting, the plan was introduced, but during the meeting, thunder boomed and the power went out, leading to an evacuation of the council chambers.

Mayor Shari Buck, who has said she would not support further cuts to public safety, was the only council member who voted against the plan.

After the meeting, Buck cited several homicides that have occurred in the city in recent days as one reason she cannot support the cuts.

"We are already shorthanded," she said. "Our citizens deserve to live in a safe community."

The city’s tentative agreement with the Teamsters includes unpaid furlough days that would shut down city offices between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It also includes Teamsters giving up cost-of-living raises for part of this fiscal year and in 2011.

The union represents about 800 workers in jobs from secretaries to managers. Its members are scheduled to vote on the agreement Thursday.

The city also plans to combine some departments and reduce services to save money.

The new SkyView Multi-Generational Center will not open, and sports programming will be reduced.

The city, which is dealing with plummeting revenues in the economic slump, laid off 188 workers in June. Another 44 — all North Las Vegas Detention Center workers — were let go in October 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 current round of cuts, which affect most city departments, would include eliminating 39 positions from public works, 28 from parks and recreation and 10 from administrative services.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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