Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Many in the private sector have lost jobs, cars and homes in Nevada's economic downturn. But what about people in the public sector that work for you, the taxpayer?
Newly-released numbers show a lot of government numbers are raking in high paychecks at the expense of the taxpayer. The 2011 salary data for public employees was collected by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
"More than 990 government employees at various levels throughout the state are making more than $200,000," Andy Matthews with NPRI said.
That's base pay plus all kinds of benefits from sick leave to car allowances.
"These are just really exhorbitant salaries and they're so difficult to justify under any circumstances, but particularly during these challenging times here in our state," Matthews said.
Firefighters occupy many of the top spots when it comes to government salaries, but there are only two of them in the top 10. A Clark County fire engineer and a fire captain each made more than $520,000.
How can one justify that?
"Simple answer? You can't," County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. "You can't justify it. It is what it is, though. I mean, I'm a realist and I understand this is what we got locked in to and it's important for you and your viewers to understand, this did not happen in a vacuum. This did not happen in a one or two year period. This happened over decades."
Commissioner Sisolak says they're putting the brakes on it now, negotiating new contracts that limit things like longevity pay. But the fire department isn't alone.
Students protesting tuition hikes in Nevada's system of higher education may be surprised to learn what some of their professors are pulling in. An associate professor at UNLV's School of Nursing made almost $370,000 last year. An English professor made more than $326,000.
"I don't think it is OK," Sisolak said. "I mean, we do have to pay good quality wages to get good people, but what's happened, is over a period of time these have just gotten absolutely out of control."
The city of North Las Vegas was on the brink of being broke, making you wonder how they justify paying a human resources analyst over $323,000. And the city clerk's base pay of $145,000 is more than the governor's.
"They're definitely inflated," Sisolak said. "There's no doubt. And they're definitely higher I think in most cases than the private sector is."
The city of Henderson paid an animal control facility administrator more than $239,000 and a graphic artist took home more than $212,000.
"I think the question needs to be posed to the City of Henderson, what are we getting for this?" Matthews said.
A Henderson spokesperson said the graphic designer was there for more than 20 years and received a severance package. They said the same for the animal control employee, and they say the jobs either won't be filled or their replacements will make less money and ultimately cost the city less.
The dollars keep adding up even after public employees have stopped working. Taxpayers continue to pay government salaries into the retirement years, meaning these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.