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North Las Vegas strikes deals with 2 unions

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Las Vegas officials reached agreements with two of their public employee labor unions on Wednesday after talks involving Gov. Brian Sandoval and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, putting the city closer to staving off a potential state takeover.

Mayor John Lee announced the beleaguered city had reached a deal with Teamsters and the firefighters union, and it was continuing negotiations Thursday with police and police supervisors unions.

"We have reached deals with some of our groups, and I am working with Speaker Kirkpatrick and Governor Sandoval to pull the others across the finish line," Lee said in a statement. "Everyone is committed to saving jobs and ensuring services for our residents."

The governor hosted negotiations in his Las Vegas office a day before city managers were to present a tentative plan to address an $18 million shortfall.

North Las Vegas has been trying to stem its financial bleeding for several years. In January, a state judge ruled the city could not withhold $25 million in contractually authorized pay raises to public safety employees by declaring a state of emergency.

Last week, city officials proposed a $7.7 million settlement with the unions, saying the alternative would be steeps cuts and layoffs.

According to Lee, Sandoval clarified to union leaders Wednesday that "the grass wouldn't be greener" for their members if the city went into state receivership, which is Nevada's statutory alternative to municipal bankruptcy.

Union leaders said Sandoval's visit and Kirkpatrick's presence helped push negotiations along.

"We are fortunate that strong leadership was able to get a fresh perspective from the 10,000-foot level," said firefighters union chief Jeff Hurley, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The speaker and Governor did a tremendous job facilitating the discussions."

If the state were to take control of North Las Vegas's finances, residents could see property taxes shoot up or services slashed.

Current state law caps property taxes at $3.64 per $100 of assessed valuation. If a financial emergency is declared, the state could raise that rate to up to $4.50. But North Las Vegas, like the rest of the state and southern Nevada in particular, was hard hit during the recession, when foreclosures skyrocketed and many residents were left owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Raising property taxes would increase the financial strain on struggling homeowners, said Carole Vilardo, executive director of the Nevada Taxpayers Association.

Lee vowed a way out of that doomsday scenario.

"I'm not going to raise taxes," he said, according to KLAS-TV. "We're going to move forward so we're a big family again. I hated to have inherited this, but the time has come that we all put it behind us."

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