At some point, the city of Las Vegas and other local governments will have to address their greatest fiscal liability: the unsustainably high wages and benefits paid to unionized public employees.
A tentative cost-cutting agreement between the city and its rank-and-file employees, reached Wednesday, doesn’t do that. As with other so-called “concessions” achieved to partially balance bleeding budgets, the deal preserves salaries and cuts services. The public still has the same tax burden, but is getting less for it.
The deal would suspend cost-of-living, step- and longevity-based pay raises for all Las Vegas City Employees Assocation members for two years, effectively freezing their hourly wages. City offices will close on Fridays, and workers will shift to a four-day, 9.5-hour-per-day work week. In addition, most city services would shut down between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Employees would end up taking home slightly less pay, but getting three-day weekends and a 10-day winter holiday technically considered a furlough.
The taxpayers, meanwhile, get 55 fewer days per year to conduct their business with the city.
Las Vegas City Employees Association members and the City Council both must approve the agreement, with votes expected this month.
Untold numbers of Las Vegans have taken pay cuts during this painful downturn. Not merely income cuts through schedule reductions and furloughs, but hits to their salaries — and in many cases, Las Vegans are working more hours for less money, just to hang onto their livelihoods.
City workers collected 2.5 percent cost-of-living raises on July 1, even though the cost of living in Southern Nevada is falling. Taxpayers — especially the one in five unemployed or underemployed – should be so lucky.
So far, only the city’s marshals have had to take a salary cut. It’s the status quo for everyone else.
Reducing and freezing pay raises won’t get cities and counties back into the black. More aggressive measures must be taken. Public employee salaries, which got us in this budgetary mess, must be reduced so services can be maintained.