Longevity pay

Contract concessions to which the Las Vegas Police Protective Association recently agreed — while they hardly do the whole job — could mark an important watershed in bringing municipal personnel costs under control.

Future members of Nevada’s largest police union will no longer receive automatic longevity pay increases under a new labor contract approved Monday, though current members will continue to get such pay raises.

The Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs voted unanimously to approve a new two-year deal with the union that cuts the rate of pay increases from 4 percent to 1 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second year. As important, though, is the elimination of longevity increases for future hires, a move that budget watchers hailed as a precedent for other local public employee labor agreements.

According to analysis provided at the meeting, the deal will save nearly $3 million in the first year and $4.9 million in the second year compared with the previous two-year contract.

Savings from elimination of the automatic “seniority” raises won’t be felt for 10 years, when they might otherwise have been expected to kick in for this year’s new hires. Nor was there any formal estimate of eventual savings. But last year the department spent $7.5 million on longevity pay hikes, according to Karen Keller, Metro’s chief financial officer.

Under the new contract, longevity pay hikes will drop from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent for current officers, and clothing and equipment allowances also will be reduced.

This is still not enough to live within recession-driven reductions in municipal revenue, meaning those new hires may still be few and far between. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Wolfson said negotiators were reluctant to demand more concessions: “We would probably lose if we went to arbitration.” A state-mandated arbitration system that inevitably results in municipalities being required to pay out the last dime in the bank account, in defiance of sensible financial planning, still needs to be repealed or reformed.

Meantime, no one is saying hardworking police officers and other municipal employees aren’t deserving of improved compensation based on meritorious performance or advancement in rank. But automatic pay hikes just for sticking around another year have virtually disappeared for the private-sector taxpayers who finance our local governments. A precedent that begins to sunset such unaffordable largess for municipal workers is a big step in the right direction.

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