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October 22, 2014

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Sheriff says he’s done pushing for tax increase, will look for cuts

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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.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie is done pushing for the More Cops tax.

After county commissioners rejected the third version of Gillespie's proposal to increase the county sales tax to put more officers on the street, the sheriff said he was prepared to move on and deal with Metro Police's new financial reality.

That means looking for places to cut costs, such as no longer responding to minor traffic accidents, he said.

“Law enforcement … in this valley have made a very compelling case in the last year and a half,” Gillespie said today during a regular meeting with news reporters. “I don’t know how many more times you can go saying this is what you need and be told, ‘You need to find some other way, sheriff.’”

The Clark County Commission on Jan. 21 voted 4-3 against a plan that would have increased the county sales tax by a total of .15 percent in two equal phases to fund more cops.

After six months of intense debate and public scrutiny of the proposal, commissioners don’t seem anxious to bring up any More Cops proposals again.

“It’s kind of died down,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who opposes the sales tax increase.

Sisolak said there’s a sense that commissioners were “worn out” after discussing the proposal across nine public meetings and taking dozens of hours of public comment without approving a tax increase.

At the same time, Gillespie said, Metro faces a growing demand for services, increasing operations costs and a stagnant budget. Already down 426 officers, a stagnant police force will only result in increased response times, he said.

Last year, Metro used its reserve fund to make up a $30 million deficit in its $490 million annual budget.

Metro will be submitting next year’s budget in February to the Fiscal Affairs Committee. Before then, Gillespie said, he and his staff will begin looking for ways to cut costs.

What he won’t do, he said, is eliminate any more officer positions.

“When most of our junior officers are out there on the street at 2 or 3 a.m., I don’t want them worried about their job,” he said. “They have a very dangerous job.”

Metro will have until April to hammer out the final details of a budget with the city of Las Vegas and Clark County.

“This is not looking into the rearview mirror, complaining about what didn’t happen,” Gillespie said. “This is looking out the windshield, understanding very clearly this is what’s coming.”

Las Vegas Sun reporter Conor Shine contributed to this report.

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