With the current fiscal and political situation, fire departments across the country are facing unprecedented financial woes. As the majority of cost in running a paid fire department is personnel related, when severe budget cuts must be made, layoffs or compensation cuts are really the only solution.
Sometimes, budget cuts are threatened as a bargaining tool during contract negotiations. Other times, it may be a priority issue, with a politician wanting to put money somewhere else. As the so-called economic recovery is occurring far too slowly in many cases, often there just isn't enough money.
I had heard that the greater Las Vegas area was experiencing a fiscal crisis. The boom time of the nineties had passed, tourism and growth had given way to reduced revenues and foreclosures. I didn't know how serious things were up there until I had a conversation with someone I know, a chief officer with a department in our county.
He mentioned that he had just spoken with a friend who was a fire officer with the city of North Las Vegas, NV. He also mentioned that his friend was sniffing around looking for departments who might be hiring firefighters in the near future. It appears that the city council in North Las Vegas had just approved a budget cutting the city budget by $33 million dollars, with $11.5 million coming out of the public safety piece of the pie.
Apparently, over 50 positions in the fire department are on the block, with most of them being in the operations division. Yikes. As they have around 200 positions, that equates to around 25% pf their staffing.
As in most times of fiscal crisis, the city and the firefighter's union are at odds, with each side blaming the other for the current situation. The current political climate makes public employees a convenient target for the city in affixing blame, while the union has little trust in what the city is saying and doing. The reality is somewhere in the middle, who really knows.
The city is looking for further compensation concessions, the union wants guarantees that concessions will save jobs. Right now, neither is willing to budge. The union feels that it has given up enough and the city says it can't make any guarantees.
Apparently, they have until the first of June to work it out. If neither side blinks, we will find out exactly what the city of North Las Vegas is willing to do and we will also find out how strong the union's resolve is in addressing the situation.
Having been involved in union leadership, I can fully understand the union's mistrust in city administration. Hearing one thing and seeing another is a way of life in many city/labor relationships. North Las Vegas appears to be no different.
That an officer is sniffing around, looking for places where his guys can find jobs is alarming to me. It tells me that the situation may indeed be serious.
Thanks for reading,