With room tax collections slowly recovering, members of the union representing workers of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority have informally asked the organization’s board of directors to consider refunding them for furlough days they lost.
Sam Noel, vice president of the non-supervisory unit of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, made the request during public comment at this morning’s LVCVA board meeting.
Noel said while he didn’t expect workers would be paid for the 28 furlough days they were required to take during the budget crunch that occurred during the recession, he was hopeful they could be credited for days worked for Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada purposes.
Union officials say that because of the furloughs ordered by LVCVA management, planned employee retirements have been pushed back a full month.
“They (the LVCVA) were in far better shape than some of the municipalities and they were more conservative than they needed to be in their budgeting,” Noel said.
The LVCVA saved an estimated $2 million with the furloughs, but union officials said that, between revenue reserves and underestimating room tax revenue, the organization had $4 million more than expected available to them and didn’t have to order the time off.
Noel’s request came after a light board meeting at which Vice President of Finance Brenda Siddall reported that in the first seven months of the current fiscal year room-tax revenue was up 11.3 percent over last year, the average daily room rate of $70.62 was 5.7 percent higher than it was last year and the occupancy rate of 79.3 percent was about the same as it was a year earlier.
While room tax collections are running ahead of what they were in the 2010 fiscal year, they still lag revenue generated in fiscal 2009 and the peak year of 2008. Current levels are on par to revenue collected in the 2005 fiscal year in the run-up to 2008.
In addition to room tax, the LVCVA is funded with gaming fees, facility charges for services at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center and interest earnings on investments, all of which suffered during the recession.
Room-tax revenue is shared with Clark County and Southern Nevada municipalities, the Clark County School District, other schools within the state, the Nevada Department of Transportation and Clark County transportation entities and the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
LVCVA President Rossi Ralenkotter said executives are in the process of drafting a budget for the 2012 fiscal year. The process began in December and financial experts meet with casino industry executives and review historical trends to estimate revenue projections for next year.
Ralenkotter said officials haven’t had a discussion yet about the status of existing freezes on jobs and executive salaries. He said he doesn’t expect the Legislature would attempt to divert room-tax funds to solve other state budget problems. That happened two years ago when lawmakers ordered room-tax revenue to fund Nevada Department of Transportation highway projects.
The Interstate 15 express lane project and widening of I-15 south of Tropicana Avenue are partially funded by tax funds that had gone to the LVCVA budget.
The LVCVA board will receive the 2012 fiscal year budget at May’s meeting and have a special session later in the month to adopt it.
In 2010, the board approved the current budget anticipating tax revenue to be flat. Ralenkotter said management’s strategy was to avoid employee layoffs.
Last year, the union rejected a proposal by the LVCVA to reopen negotiations for pay cuts. The union then opposed LVCVA management’s furlough plan and efforts to curtail cost-of-living pay increases, but an arbitrator ruled for management’s position. The union can seek to reopen negotiations on cost-of-living increases in July. The furlough plan ended in December.
“The way we view it, we were able to keep every LVCVA worker employed during the worst recession anybody has ever seen,” Ralenkotter said.