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Unions, District Debate Layoffs and Budget Cuts

LAS VEGAS -- Unions and the Clark County School District remain gridlocked on layoffs and budget cuts. All four unions met with school district leaders and still came to no solution, even though a new, revised budget is due in three weeks.

Stephen Augspurger, head of the Clark County Association of School Administrators, says he came in optimistic with a plan of how to keep jobs and cut salaries as little as possible. But after the meeting was over, he was frustrated with the district for giving them wrong revenue numbers. 

Now they have to start over while the clock is ticking.

"The concern we still have is there's not a sense of urgency on the part of the district to get this resolved. We've got families and employees who are losing income and jobs and no one wants to be in that predicament for any longer than is necessary and the longer it goes, the worse people are gonna feel," he said.

Housing Market May Be Rebounding

LAS VEGAS -- As more people are finding new jobs, the housing market is getting a boost. Nationally, the number of people behind on their mortgage payments has dropped for the first time in four years.

Across the country, homeowners are finally starting to catch up with payments and experts say Las Vegas is improving as well.

"In the last 18 months, people have been faced with either, 'You make your mortgage payment or we take your house,' and a lot of people say, 'Ok, take my house because the mortgage is twice what the value is,' and that is starting to stop," said mortgage expert Roger Rothberg.

Thanks to some improvements in the job market, people are now catching up with payments. Those who can't afford the homes they're in have let them go, giving the battered housing market a chance to heal.

Lake Mead Water Levels Worry Observers

LAS VEGAS -- If you have been to Lake Mead, you can visibly see how low the water supply is getting. Conditions have now pushed the federal government to meet with western states to plan the water future.

The drought has surged on for about 11 years, but the Southern Nevada Water Authority says the state has plans in place that will allow homes and lawns to continue to exist.

"When we hit 1,025 (feet), we will have stopped generating electricity. When we hit 1,025, the amount of water left in Lake Mead is barely enough to meet a single year's allocation," said Pat Mulroy with the SNWA.

Right now, the lake level is at 1,100 feet and the water authority has managed to store, lease, or buy enough water to keep things running smoothly even if Lake Mead was to drop below 1,025 feet.

But if the lake drops below that point, there will be shortages. Right now, forecasts could have the lake below 1,025 feet in less than two years.

Las Vegas Schools Facing 1,000 Layoffs

LAS VEGAS  -- Cash-strapped Clark County school trustees are poised to lay off more than 1,000 employees by July 1 unless the Las Vegas-based district can find another way to close a big budget shortfall.

Board members of the nation's fifth-largest school district approved a tentative spending plan late Wednesday that aims to close most of a $140 million budget gap left by reduced state funding and declining property tax revenues. The board has until June 8 to submit a final balanced budget to the state.

Administrators say classroom and administrative positions are on the block. But specifics haven't been made public. Officials say they hope the district's four employee unions will agree to concessions including salary reductions and furlough days to reduce the number of layoffs.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

First-Time Unemployment Claims Increased

WASHINGTON -- The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign that jobs remain scarce even as the economy recovers. The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims increased by 18,000 in the week ending April 3, to a seasonally adjusted 460,000. That's worse than economists' estimates of a drop to 435,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The report covers the week that includes the Easter holiday, and a Labor Department analyst said seasonal adjustment for Easter can be difficult since the holiday occurs in different weeks each year. California also closed its state offices for a holiday March 31, the analyst said, which likely held down the claims figures. On an unadjusted basis, claims rose by 6,500 to nearly 415,000.

Accused Murderer Charged in Prison Attack

LAS VEGAS -- Authorities say a Las Vegas process server awaiting trial in two murder cases is now facing new charges.

Police say 48-year-old Gregory Lee Hover was cutting another inmate's hair when he used the scissors to cut the man's back.

Hover has now been moved to a jail isolation unit and faces a new charge of battery by a prisoners with the use of a deadly weapon.

Hover is also facing murder charges for the death of a 64-year-old homeowner. He and his alleged accomplice, 18-year-old Richard Freeman are accused of shooting and killing Julio Romero during a home invasion robbery.

They are also accused in the murder and sexual assault of 21-year-old Primas Contreras. Police say Hover and Freeman kidnapped her after she left her job at Hooters Hotel-Casino. Her body was found in a burned out jeep in the desert near Boulder City.

Budget Deadline Nears for Clark County School District

LAS VEGAS -- Some big changes are expected for the Clark County School District in the coming months. School board members meet Wednesday to adopt a tentative budget designed to cut $123 million.

One of the proposals -- eliminating year round schools -- would save $18 million. Already school board members have agreed to change 21 schools from a year-round schedule to a nine-month schedule.

"I think it'll give them a chance to save money," said Shaunrice Hill, a former student.

Even with that change, there are still 55 schools operating 12 months a year. Some parents want that to change.

"I have older kids who are in a traditional nine month school, so we're able to take our vacations the same if we are all on a nine month school," said Delilah Ascencion, parent.