11/21/08

Local gov't: Push coming to shove

Will militant gov't unions accept layoffs or confront, insult taxpayers?

It comes as no surprise that Clark County is in the middle of a potential budget meltdown, just like the state of Nevada. So to try and figure out the best course of action, the County Commission Office held an unprecedented meeting Thursday with three major employee groups.

News 3's Dan Ball details what was discussed and how their decisions will affect your community's police, fire, and human services. "Give what the county is confronting, I thought it was important we came together today," County Commission Chairman Rory Reid told those gathered.

Reid called for the special session meeting between union reps from the SEIU, Police Protective Association, and the International Association of Firefighters. He's concerned that Clark County may be headed for some serious financial woes.

"Just like families all over the state of Nevada, we are looking at our budget on a daily and weekly basis, trying to determine if we can keep doing what we're doing," Reid said.

The Commission knew things were getting bad earlier this year and in May began phase one of its cost containment plan. Said Reid, "We've tried to be very careful and prudent given the current circumstances."

Being careful included not filling over 350 positions, including many in fire, police, and human services. "We've actually decreased in the number. If you want that type of service to the public, which is a vital service providing medical and fire, we have to fill those positions," Reid warned.

Clark County also cut a lot of overtime and changed employee travel policy. In all, phase one saved between $15 and $20 million.

"On Tuesday we entered phase two of cost containment, which involved eliminating programs at UMC, reducing others, and, I'm afraid, phase two will continue," Reid said.

Union leaders and the Commission agree that phase three, which could involve layoffs, will only be used as a last resort. That's why they met on Thursday to discuss other options.

Regarding those options, Reid said, "We've asked them (union reps) to talk about (them). They've agreed. We asked them to put everything on the table. We've told them the concerns we have with our budget."

If the county and the unions can't come to an agreement about how to fix the budget, it could end up costing you valuable services. "We have to be willing to talk about ways to avoid layoffs and maintain services," Reid said. "That's a steep climb."

The Commission will meet with the three union leaders next month. That's when they will bring ideas to the table on ways to make cuts without laying people off.

(kvbc.com)

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