I-Team: Lucrative Salaries & Benefits in North Las Vegas - 8 News NOW

Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty and Photojournalist Kyle Zuelke

I-Team: Lucrative Salaries & Benefits in North Las Vegas

Posted: Updated:

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Collective bargaining tactics traditionally confined to the back room are being paraded in public this year. Unions for the City of North Las Vegas police and firefighters openly challenged the city's efforts to cut costs.

At stake for a majority of North Las Vegas employees are lucrative salary and benefits packages that were negotiated before the economic boon went bust. "The growth has stopped," said acting North Las Vegas Finance Director Al Noyola. "At this rate, the city would not be able to sustain itself, if we continue paying at this rate."

The 2009 Clark County Salary Tracker

An I-Team review of the city's payroll reveals trends common to municipalities valley-wide. Firefighters and police monopolize the top of the earnings scale with six-figure paychecks for nearly 60% of full-time firefighters and 40% of sworn police and corrections officers in 2009.

"The key is I don't think how much the police officer earns, it's is the police officer earning that pay? And, our commitment is that they are," said North Las Vegas Police Sgt. Tim Bedwell.

While the average police salary hovers below the $100,000 mark, perks like longevity pay, premium pay and overtime pad police and fire paychecks.

Take North Las Vegas Police Sgt. George Middlebrook. According to city payroll records in 2009, Middlebrook took home more than $180,000. On top of his $99,000 salary, the 14-year veteran of the department collected some $6,000 in longevity pay, nearly $25,000 in premium pay for a special assignment and more than $45,000 in overtime.

"The bottom line is this. If a one-year-old child is taken to Sunrise Hospital that's been raped, we have to call that sexual assault detective in," Sgt. Bedwell said. "We have to pay that overtime. If there are a lot of those, and they make a lot of overtime, clearly that's a sad thing. But, the community knows that officer has to be out there."

More than 70% of firefighters also collected overtime in the double digits last year. Firefighter/paramedic Craig Romey topped the list with nearly $60,000 in overtime.

Compensation is now on the decline citywide with targeted cuts to overtime this year of at least 25%. "Some of the other benefits, however in order to reduce those, it will take the unions to come to the table and negotiate with the city in terms of the level of benefits we're providing to our employees," Noyola said.

A compromise with the city last month cost the firefighters $1.8 million in concessions but saved 16 firefighter jobs, at least for now. A second round of budget cuts looms. With it comes more bargaining, whether behind closed doors or out in public. Cost-saving measures at the city and the police department have, thus far, included layoffs of civilian employees, executive buy-outs and a hiring freeze.

In a statement, Jeff Hurley, president of the North Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1607, said, "North Las Vegas Firefighters do not dictate hiring practices. We have met with the city council and recommended that they hire more firefighters to off-set the overtime costs. Additionally, over the last 12 months, North Las Vegas Firefighters have made three rounds of concessions. In the concessions we took a reduction in healthcare benefits, and we are the only union not to receive pay raises. Finally, we eliminated longevity pay in 1997 and a large majority of our firefighters don't receive longevity. Our goal is to continue to work with the elected officials in North Las Vegas and arrive at solutions that benefit our community. Like all firefighters, our number one priority is public safety."

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.