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New report exposes high salaries of local public employees

New report exposes high salaries of local public employees

By Molly Waldron. CREATED Apr 4, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Crippling unemployment and the highest foreclosure rate in the nation- real economic hardships facing real Nevadans. Unless, that is, you work for the government. That's not the case across the board, but plenty of public employees are living a life unattainable for many Nevadans.

Last year, nearly a thousand public employees at various levels of government made more than $200,000 each. That's close to $200 million tax dollars in government workers' pockets in just one year.

For the last few years, we've listened to local and state government voice concerns over poverty, jobs and services.

"And we're starving government and we've eliminated all the waste we possibly can...I think these numbers tell a different story," Andy Matthews with the Nevada Policy Research Institute said.

The numbers are salary data for more than 121,000 government employees statewide. The NPRI collected the data for the 2011 calendar year. It includes salary benefits.

"And we're seeing that government is really being irresponsible and unaccountable with taxpayers money and I think they have a lot to answer for," Matthews said.

Ever wonder why healthcare costs are so high? Consider how much the doctors make. A lot of the state's highest salaries are being paid through the university system, which is home to Nevada's top public money maker, Dr. William Zamboni, professor and chief of the University of Nevada School of Medicine's Division of Plastic Surgery, who pulled in more than $1.3 million last year.

Next time the sheriff asks for more tax money to put more cops on the street, remember that 32 Metro Sergeants earned more than $200,000 last year. Assistant sheriff Mike McClary pulled in more than half a million.

The City of North Las Vegas was recently on the verge of bankruptcy and one could argue that's partially due to inflated salaries.  Last year, 23 firefighters and more than 55 police and corrections officers topped that $200,000 mark.

It's not a matter of government not having enough money, it's a matter of are they being efficient with the tax money they're already getting?

Commissioner Steve Sisolake says the county is trying to put the brakes on big salaries.

"It's not a matter of government not having enough money, it's a matter of are they being efficient with the tax money they're already getting?" Matthews asks.

"We haven't given as many cost of living and merit raises and longevity raises and these sort of things--those have been restricted by the contracts that we've negotiated," Sisolak said. "The fact remains that prior to that, for decades, they got these things."

Sisolak says government has to compete with the private sector and pay good quality wages to get good quality people, but he believes the new numbers show public salary packages have spiraled out of control.

"I'm not gonna sugar coat it for you, I'm not gonna candy coat it, there's no way around it," Sisolak said. "The taxpayer is stuck with the bill. "