Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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Metro’s request for $27 million in additional city, county support raises eyebrows

With a final decision a month away, Metro Police’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year dominated discussion Monday morning during a Fiscal Affairs Committee meeting.

The issue: Metro has proposed a $502 million budget for fiscal year 2013-2014. To stem a roughly $46 million deficit, the department is seeking increased contributions from Clark County and the city of Las Vegas.

Under the proposal, the county’s contribution would increase by $17.1 million and the city’s would increase by $10.1 million. The city and county each year must cover the portion of Metro’s budget that isn’t covered by self-generated revenues. The county picks up 60 percent of those costs; the city takes care of the other 40 percent.

The debate: Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the department had funds for 192 commissioned officer positions, which have been left unfilled because of looming budget concerns. The proposed budget would eliminate 117 of those commissioned officer positions, as well as 59 civilian positions. The department intends to fill the remaining 75 commissioned officer positions.

Gillespie said he strongly opposed eliminating more police officer positions.

“We have reached the point that we don’t got any lower,” he said. “We will have to look at other areas of service we provide to cut those positions.”

Gillespie noted the department’s budget must be approved by the end of April, which is sooner than the Nevada Legislature likely will make a decision regarding the quarter-cent sales tax increase for Clark County that would fund additional police positions. And even if the Legislature does approve the sales tax increase, Metro would not see that revenue until January 2014.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a member of the Fiscal Affairs Committee, expressed concern about where the county would find another $17.1 million for Metro, sparking a moment of dialogue between himself and Gillespie.

“If we don’t have the money, we’re looking at either forcing cuts or layoffs at the county, or cuts and layoffs at Metro,” Sisolak said.

“That’s correct, commissioner,” Gillespie replied.

“Well, we’ve already had cuts and layoffs at the county — a significant number of them,” Sisolak said.

County Commissioner Larry Brown, another Fiscal Affairs Committee member, said the impending dilemma amounts to putting a Band-Aid on a larger problem, resulting in making value judgments about services.

“Is a police officer on a street more important than a social worker answering a hotline more important than treatment at (University Medical Center)?” he said. “That’s the decision I see coming.”

Next step: Clark County commissioners will discuss Metro’s budget request during their next meeting Tuesday, April 2. Gillespie told Sisolak he planned to attend.

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