Las Vegas Valley Water District employees have agreed to forgo cost-of-living raises for another year and phase out longevity pay in the future.
First, though, water district board members have to sign off on the new collective bargaining agreements.
The Clark County Commission seemed poised to approve the five-year agreements on Tuesday, but Commissioner Steve Sisolak put a stop to the vote because he said it was not posted in accordance with state law.
Sisolak said the law requires local governments to hold public hearings and produce financial impact statements before adopting or changing collective bargaining agreements with their employees.
Water district General Counsel Charles Hauser said he was unfamiliar with the specifics of the law but suggested the commission could proceed by simply holding a public hearing right then.
That drew an angry response from Sisolak.
"This isn’t a law that just passed last week," he said. "Just because you don’t know about it doesn’t mean we don’t have to follow it."
Phil Speight, deputy general manager for the district, said the item would be properly posted and brought back before the commission, most likely at its next meeting, slated for Dec. 21.
The water district’s roughly 1,400 workers have ratified the new agreements .
The terms are identical for all employees, from the general manager to entry-level meter readers, Speight said.
Under the agreements, employees would give up cost-of-living raises during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, but be eligible for annual increases of up to 3 percent over the next four years, depending on broader economic conditions.
If economic conditions remain unchanged or worsen, however, the district could open negotiations on cuts, including wage reductions, Speight said.
The new agreements also would eliminate longevity pay for employees hired after Jan. 1 of next year and institute what Speight described as an "austere" buy-out program for district employees who are eligible to retire with at least 15 years of service.
Water district General Manager Pat Mulroy said she favors the agreements because they essentially cement the organization’s personnel costs for the immediate future. "This provides us some stability in that area over the next five years, when we could be facing God knows what," she said.
Mulroy added that there are enough savings built into the agreements to cover "our maximum exposure" under the terms of the deals.
Over the past two years, the valley’s largest water utility has cut costs and scaled back its staff in response to the sharp decline in construction and population growth.
Speight said 125 full-time positions are being held vacant and overall staffing is down 151 positions since the peak of the utility’s expansion in 2006.
The County Commission serves as the board of trustees for the water district.
After Tuesday’s meeting, a still-angry Sisolak could be heard dressing down Speight and Mulroy over his exchange with the water district’s chief attorney.
"He’s the highest paid lawyer we’ve got," Sisolak said of Hauser. "Is he looking at your agendas? Then what are we paying him for?"