EDITORIAL: Clark County School District must cough up millions thanks to binding arbitration

Another arbitration case and another sucker punch to the back of the head for local taxpayers.

Last week, an Oregon mediator sided with the administrators’ union in a contract dispute with the Clark County School District. As a result, the district must now scrounge up $19.5 million — $13.3 million more than the district had originally offered the 1,300 employees for a two-year deal ending in 2017.

The award includes a 2 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year and a 3 percent bump in pay for the 2016-17 academic calendar. The district had offered a backloaded 1.125 raise for this January and another 1.125 boost in April.

The arbitrator ruled, however, that the district (read: taxpayers) would have to grant the union’s wish list because … well, just because it could.

“The district offered no documented evidence or witnesses, or other direct evidence, that it lacked the financial ability to pay the association’s requested monetary proposal,” wrote arbitrator Eric Lindaeur.

This is insanity. In theory, governments can raise millions — even billions — by simply expropriating additional wealth from their productive taxpayers. Does that mean they have the “financial ability” to meet any union demand and therefore must do so?

Why school principals and other administrators have a union remains a mystery, but that’s a topic for another day. This case, however, once again highlights the folly of binding arbitration when it comes to government contracts. An out-of-state attorney parachutes in from 975 miles away and orders Clark County residents to cough up almost $20 million and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

“Mandatory arbitration has turned out to be a rigged game —rigged in favor of government employees, and against the taxpayers who supply their wages and benefits,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby in 2011. He noted that arbitration “takes away from citizens and their elected officials the power to shape local budgets and to establish wages and working conditions for public employees.”

This is why any push to expand collective bargaining rights — which currently apply to local government employees, such as the school administrators — to Nevada state workers is dangerous and misguided. The process, along with runaway pension costs, represents the driving force behind the fiscal meltdown taking place in many cities and even some states.

Democrats have traditionally shown no interest in collective bargaining reform, preferring to throw their allegiance behind government unions rather than taxpayers. But how many more ridiculous awards from unaccountable arbitrators will it take before enough lawmakers in Carson City realize the system isn’t working for those who pay the bills?

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