Las Vegas police union eliminates longevity pay for future hires in new two-year agreement

LAS VEGAS, NV &#8211 Future members of Nevada’s largest police union no longer will receive automatic longevity pay increases under a new labor contract approved Monday, but current members will continue to get pay raises despite lean times for local governments.

The Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs voted unanimously to approve a new two-year deal with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association that slows the rate of pay increases from 4 percent to 1 percent in the first year and eliminates longevity increases for future hires, the latter move hailed by management as a precedent for future local government labor agreements.

The union last week voted 1,108 to 250 in favor of the agreement.

According to a fiscal analysis provided at the meeting, the new agreement will save nearly $3 million in the first year and $4.9 million in the second year compared with the previous two-year contract.

The first-year savings, however, will fall short of the $5.7 million that Metropolitan Police Department management had hoped to save through concessions, meaning they will need to hold off on hiring for about 69 police officer positions to make up the difference, said Karen Keller, chief financial officer for the department.

Others said the long-term savings from eliminating longevity pay are the most important part of the agreement.

“This deletion of the longevity is a huge step,” said Las Vegas Ward 2 Councilman Steve Wolfson, a member of the Fiscal Affairs Committee. “It is sending a message to all of the government employees this is probably the new standard.”

Savings from longevity pay would materialize in 10 years, when newly hired members would have been eligible for such raises. There was no estimate of the potential long-term savings, but Keller said last year the department spent $7.5 million on longevity pay increases.

But Las Vegas Ward 5 Councilman Ricki Barlow, another committee member, said he would vote reluctantly for the new agreement because the savings don’t go far enough.

Barlow cited pay freezes, layoffs and cuts to services imposed by the city that he said indicate the Police Department budget could be shrunk further.

“The city is not in a financial position to support any increase to Metro’s budget,” Barlow said. “The only solution at this time is cost containment and cost avoidance.”

Committee members said they would have pushed for more savings but feared that if a contract dispute went into arbitration, it could end up costing taxpayers more money.

“We would probably lose if we went to arbitration,” Wolfson said.

Police Protective Association Executive Director Chris Collins didn’t speak at the meeting Monday, but in a previous interview, he said local governments could afford continued pay increases.

Under terms of the contract, merit pay increases will be 1 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second, compared with 4 percent annually in the previous contract. Longevity pay increases will be 0.25 percent for each year, compared with 0.5 percent in the previous contract.

Clothing and equipment allowances will be $925 per member in the first year and $1,000 in the second. Previously the allowance had been as high as $1,675, according to a list of agreement highlights.

There are no cost of living adjustments in the contract.

The Police Department’s overall budget is about $501 million, with 61.6 percent from Clark County and 38.4 percent from the city, according to the amended final budget document dated April 25 on the department website.

From The Las Vegas Review-Journal.