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Commission postpones debate on More Cops sales tax hike

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 | 5:35 p.m.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

The debate over the More Cops sales tax proposal will continue after Clark County commissioners today declined to take up a .15 percent increase put forward by Commissioner Tom Collins.

Collins pitched his proposal, which would increase the sales tax by .10 percent in April and another .05 percent in July, as an attempt to break the deadlock on the commission.

Members split on a pair of sales tax proposals in October, neither of which passed. The extra revenue would be used by Metro Police and police departments in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite to hire more police officers.

Today, commissioners were set to discuss and vote on Collins’ revised proposal. But Collins moved to table the item while Sheriff Doug Gillespie works on a report laying out specific statistics to frame his argument for increased funding. The motion was approved unanimously.

“There’s going to be a very in-depth financial presentation to our entire board that will move the personal feelings aside,” Collins said after the vote. “(It will) show the facts of what this community needs going forward between now and 2025 and beyond.”

No formal plan has been drafted yet, but Commissioner Steve Sisolak said his understanding is that Gillespie is working with economist Jeremy Aguero to develop a plan that would trigger a sales tax increase when Metro’s reserves hit certain thresholds.

“When that (reserve) falls below a certain threshold, you would implement part of the .15,” Sisolak said. “Then if it fell below another figure you might implement another portion of the tax.”

That reserve, which holds an estimated $136 million in funds collected from an already in place quarter percent sales tax levy, has been a key focus of several commissioners, who would prefer Metro dip into its savings rather than increase taxes. Gillespie has argued that those funds are needed to continue paying officers hired under the More Cops program who will still be on the force after the sales tax levy sunsets in 2025.

Sisolak, who has opposed any amount of sales tax increase, described the plan as “very general and very vague” currently.

It will likely be at least a month before details are finalized and the report is brought back to the commission for discussion, according to Sisolak and Collins. After that, it would take another month before a new ordinance could be drafted and passed, leaving the sales tax proposal in limbo nearly a year after it was first pitched to the public.

Gillespie has argued that the full .15 percent sales tax increase authorized by the Legislature this summer is needed to prevent the elimination of 250 Metro Police officer positions. The department is facing a $30 million budget deficit next year.

Collins previously has refused to support a compromise proposal for a reduced .075 percent increase favored by several commissioners, saying that the amount doesn’t do enough to help Metro and other local police departments, which are dealing with an increase in crime around the valley.

Collins reiterated Tuesday that he will only support a sales tax plan that authorizes the full .15-percent increase, but he’s open to phasing the increase in over several smaller incremental hikes.

“The bottom line is we’ve been given the opportunity to make this a safer community,” Collins said. “The longer we delay this opportunity to improve public safety in our community, the longer it’s going to take to turn it around.”

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