Las Vegas Sun

October 13, 2015

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Metro Police budget of $489 million means 188 fewer officers


Steve Marcus

Sheriff Doug Gillespie speaks on the Metro Police budget during a county commission meeting at the Clark County Government Center Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

Gillespie Speaks About Metro Budget

Sheriff Doug Gillespie speaks on the Metro Police budget during a county commission meeting at the Clark County Government Center Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Metro Police will have to make do with less after the Fiscal Affairs Committee approved a budget Monday that is $13 million less than Sheriff Doug Gillespie requested.

The issue: The Fiscal Affairs Committee, which oversees Metro’s budget, weighed two proposals — one for $502 million that was backed by Gillespie and another for $489 million that was backed by local government officials.

The vote: The committee unanimously approved the $489 million budget.

What it means: Metro Police will have 188 fewer officers next year and could face even deeper losses in the future.

Gillespie said the $489 million budget is the “bare minimum” his department needs to provide the level of service the community expects. This year’s budget is $515 million.

Although he pushed for an additional $13 million in funding — which equates to about 71 officer positions and 50 civilian positions — Gillespie said he respected the committee’s decision.

“This is the amount of money we have to run the department. We can’t fall back on ‘Well, we didn’t get what we wanted,’” he said. “We’re going to work very, very hard to make it work.”

Gillespie said the department has lost about 17 percent of its commissioned officers since the recession began, which has led to an increase in crime and a decrease in morale among officers.

This year’s round of cuts will not result in layoffs, Gillespie said.

Instead, hundreds of positions vacated in the past year through retirement and other departures will be eliminated.

Members of the Fiscal Affairs Committee, which includes representatives from Clark County and Las Vegas, two of Metro’s primary funding sources, said that although they’d like to increase Metro’s budget, the money is not available.

“I hate the fact that we’re here...I would love to sit here and provide you with all that you need,” Las Vegas city councilman Ricki Barlow said. “I had to support what I felt was necessary in order to keep all levels of the city government and Metro whole.”

The $489 million budget approved Monday includes a $198 million contribution from Clark County — an $8 million increase from last year — and a $119 million contribution from Las Vegas — a $5 million increase. The remaining funding comes from property taxes and other self-generated revenues from the department.

To close this year’s budget gap, Metro was forced to draw on $30 million in reserve funding it saved by keeping hundreds of officer positions vacant last year.

Metro Chief Financial Officer Karen Keller said the $30 million was a one-time funding solution and won’t be available again next year, meaning more tough decisions for elected officials.

“We have to prioritize. Nothing’s going to change in the next few years from a financial resource standpoint. We are going to be short money,” Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown said. “We have to make sure public safety, in this case Metro, has the priority for funding. What that means is other county programs and services are going to be suspended or eliminated. It’s a tough political decision, but we have to do that. There’s no question.”

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