We owe a lot to our public employees.
The members of Public Sector Teamsters Local No. 14, which includes the staff at Mesquite City Hall, recently agreed to a new labor contract with the city.
That three-year agreement does not include any raises while the cost of living in Mesquite will hardly stay steady through June 30, 2016, when the contract is set for renewal. And for many of the workers, those at city hall specifically, the three-day weekends they’ve enjoyed are no more, as city hall again is open to serve the public on Fridays.
Those three-day weekends were a plumb and when Monday holidays rolled around, the long weekends became four days off, almost a mini vacation.
But after a year of negotiations, the union workers agreed to the longer hours without a pay increase. That’s a sacrifice, folks, and for the public good.
Next time you’re paying a water bill, registering to vote or filling out some required form at city hall remember that the people who are serving you are serving you well and should be treated accordingly.
During the March 25 Mesquite City Council meeting after the council ratified the contract, Councilman George Rapson praised the union workers, and noted how quickly the negotiations ended their year-long, expensive give-and-take when “our people finally met with their people.”
Translated, that means the workers and the city staff were able to get more done once they got the attorneys both sides had expended so much treasure on out of the way and talked directly.
Hopefully, that’s a lesson well learned, as city supervisors and elected officials continue their talks this week with the unions representing the city’s police and firefighters.
A provision of the Public Sector Teamsters Local No. 14 contract stipulates that if the city decides to grant police or firemen a raise in their contract, the public sector union contract will be amended automatically for those workers to receive an identical increase.
All of us who work would like a raise, increase in benefits and more money contributed to our retirements.
Many in the private sector have seen employer contributions to their 401(k) accounts shrink or stop altogether, while the city still pays full fare into PERS (the Public Employees Retirement System), 25.75 percent of salary for non-public safety workers and 40.5 percent for police and firefighters.
No one in the private sector, except maybe a few top executives, gets that kind of employer contribution to their futures. And don’t forget, our tax dollars are what makes that retirement benefit possible.
Other communities are suffering as shrinking tax revenues are exasperating the impact of municipal employee retirement mandates on the public coffers.
Mesquite has taken some serious blows to its property tax revenues since the downturn has plummeted home values. Our current administration has been able to hold the line. Some services have been cut, but all in all, the public is being well served.
It’s not yet clear, however, how well served the public was by past administrations during the halcyon days when Mesquite was the fastest growing community in Nevada. When tax revenues seem bottomless, its too easy for elected officials to agree to projects that may prove to be financial black holes. And it’s also too easy to concede to demands for higher wages for staff and department heads and sweetheart deals for their retirement.
That may not have been done in the past in Mesquite as it was in other cities now on the brink of financial disaster. We may be fortunate and no past appeasements lurk to threaten budgets of the future. All such information, according to the mayor last fall, must be kept confidential until the new contracts are all delivered and ratified.
We can be confident the police and fire unions and current city officials are responsible and responsive enough to protect the public interest and weigh it against their own needs. And we can hope for a speedy agreement.
We live in a safe community that’s beautiful to the eye. And that’s because of the caliber of our public servants.
They deserve our praise and respect. And let’s hope it always remains that way.