North Las Vegas leaders on Wednesday approved a concessions agreement with the police officers union that will save the cash-strapped city’s recreation centers for now.
But that doesn’t mean there are no hard feelings.
“This is using a Band-Aid to try to stop a gushing, bleeding wound,” Councilwoman Anita Wood said of the agreement with the 360-member Police Officers Association.
Wood was the only member of the council who voted against the hard-fought agreement, which includes suspending a January cost-of-living raise for union members and will save the city about
$2 million through June.
City officials said they needed $1.5 million to keep the two city-run recreation centers open. The council voted last month in favor of closing the centers to help bridge a $4.4 million shortfall in the city’s fiscal 2012 budget. Scores of senior citizens and others protested the closures at council meetings.
Wood said she couldn’t support an agreement that simply kicks the problem down the road. While the union agreed in part to suspend a 1.13 percent cost-of-living raise scheduled for January, that raise will simply be added to separate 3 percent cost-of-living raises scheduled for July. The union also agreed to suspend a December uniform allowance, but that also will be added back in July.
Police officers in the city average $92,400 a year in salary, plus $50,300 in benefits.
Mayor Shari Buck said that while the agreement isn’t perfect, it meets the goal of keeping the recreation centers open while balancing the budget.
She noted that because the city is barred by court order from laying off police union members, the union didn’t have to agree to any concessions at all.
“I’m happy to fix it for the fiscal year,” she said. “I think they (the police union) will be willing to come back in” to negotiate more contract concessions next year.
Mike Yarter, president of the union, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, outside the council meeting Wednesday evening, dozens of residents lined up to sign a petition to recall Buck. Some said they were angry about Buck’s support of police and fire unions at the expense of other city services.
Buck “brought us to the brink of takeover by the state,” Len Marciano said. “She hasn’t shown good leadership.”
Marciano said he supported Buck in her 2009 election bid but now supports her recall.
Bob Borgersen, a resident working on the recall effort, said Buck’s votes have long been too closely tied to the police union, which endorsed her and contributed to her campaign.
He acknowledged that it will be difficult within 90 days to gather the signatures of 2,466 voters who cast ballots in the 2009 race. That’s how many are necessary for a recall.
“So many have moved away because of job losses and the economy,” Borgersen said. “Still, you never find out until you try.”
Buck called the recall effort ridiculous.
“I don’t understand what their reasons are,” she said. “We’ve been working hard. The rec centers are staying open.”
The city has undergone several rounds of budget cuts in recent years, trimming about $60 million from its general fund budget and cutting or freezing more than 800 positions. It has drawn the attention of state officials who have the power to take over the city’s finances if it can’t balance its budget.
Wood said she worries that because the agreement approved Wednesday only pushes payments down the road, it eventually will “help ensure that the state comes over and takes over the city.”
Buck said the agreement meets the commitment the city made to the state to balance the 2012 budget.
Residents have criticized the police union for not offering up more concessions sooner. Union officials have criticized the city for foolish spending — including funding for a new City Hall and a $300 million wastewater treatment facility — and for failing to support public safety the way it should.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@review journal.com or 702-383-0285.