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North Las Vegas unions encouraged to bargain

As North Las Vegas sent out the first round of pink slips to workers Thursday, Mayor Shari Buck wrote letters to the city’s four unions urging them to return to the bargaining table to avoid layoffs.

"We stand by our pledge to work with you in good faith, with accurate information and to do so under complete transparency so the citizens of our City know we are being good stewards of their tax dollars," she wrote.

The mayor commended the Police Supervisors Association and Teamsters Local 14 for publicly saying they were willing to negotiate with city management. She urged the other two unions, which represent firefighters and rank-and-file police, to sit down with City Manager Tim Hacker and find a solution that will help balance the budget while "avoiding mass layoffs and keeping the City safe and our residents served."

The city must make up a $33 million deficit in the $123 million budget for the coming fiscal year and has proposed hundreds of employee layoffs to help meet that goal. If the city can’t reach new union agreements by July 1, it would lay off 100 police employees, 57 fire employees and 60 members of the Teamsters, who represent about 500 general city employees.

North Las Vegas employs about 1,400 people.

The first 15 layoff notices went to members of the Teamsters Thursday, and more are planned next week.

The city must submit its final budget to the state Department of Taxation by June 1.

City management has asked its public safety unions to accept a number of concessions, including a two-year pay freeze, a moratorium on uniform allowances and an end to a program that allows employees to sell back unused holiday and sick time. The savings would total $9.8 million.

The mayor’s letter surprised Jeff Hurley, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1607. "I’m not quite sure what that was about," he said.

His union agreed in principle earlier this month to the city’s financial requests, he said. But the agreement came with the requirement that North Las Vegas consolidate its fire service with another local government, such as Las Vegas or Clark County.

North Las Vegas fire officials have been in discussions with their Las Vegas counterparts to share services, he said.

Hurley questioned the city’s deficit because the budget includes a number of empty positions, including 28 from the fire department. Those 28 positions account for $3.1 million, he said.

Adding the vacant positions artificially inflates the budget, he said.

He also noted that the firefighters union has conceded $20 million in pay and benefits over the past four years.

"We’ve never shied away from doing what’s right," Hurley said.

Police union President Mike Yarter shared Hurley’s concerns with the city’s numbers, pointing out how the budget deficit climbed from $15 million to $33 million in less than a month. A chunk of that came from the 85 vacant positions the city has on the books, he said.

Yarter said he has not declined to negotiate with city management, but he won’t sit down to talk until after the final budget goes to the state on June 1. Only then will he know what the city’s real budget deficit is, he said.

"It’s a moving target," Yarter said. "I really don’t know what the number is at this point."

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.

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