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October 16, 2018

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Sheriff, chiefs lobby for tax hike for new officers

CARSON CITY -- Clark County Sheriff Bill Young told a Senate Committee on Tuesday he does "not have enough officers to do the job we're supposed to do."

Young and police chiefs from the cities in Clark County urged the Senate Taxation Committee to approve a bill to allow the Clark County Commission to increase the sales tax by one-fourth of a percent by July 1 to hire more officers.

The new officers hired by Metro Police would be "deployed in the neighborhoods" and not in administrative jobs, Young said.

Young was joined in pushing for the tax increase by Jim White, acting chief of police in Henderson; Mike Mayberry, the former Henderson chief; North Las Vegas Chief Mark Paresi and Mesquite Deputy Chief Joseph Szalay.

Voters in Clark County last November approved an advisory question to boost the sales tax to allow the hiring of the additional officers.

Under Assembly Bill 418, the county could impose the tax and then Clark County would come back to the Legislature in 2009 to ask for another one-quarter of a percent increase in the sales tax. That was part of the advisory question, which was approved by voters 51.5 to 48.5 percent.

If approved, the sales tax in Clark County would go from 7.5 percent to 7.75 percent in July.

Stan Olsen, representing Metro, said over the next 10 years 1,278 officers would be hired by Metro, 151 in North Las Vegas, 227 in Henderson and 14 in Mesquite. The money is to be distributed according to population.

Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he wants a full committee present to take a vote and that could come Thursday or early next week. The bill has already passed the Assembly.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, asked why the ballot question lost in some areas, such as Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite but won in the rest of Clark County. Young said in some areas "They didn't feel the crime like we do" in Las Vegas and the unincorporated area of Clark County.

Coffin complained it seemed that Henderson was "getting a free ride" with the citizens voting against the bill but still getting the extra police.

"The people in the city of Las Vegas voted for these things. It's just irritates me a little bit" that Henderson will get the money, he said.

But Paresi said "criminals know no boundaries." This is a regional problem, he told the committee.

The national average is 2.5 police officers for each 1,000 residents. The ratio for Metro is 1.7 officers for each 1,000 residents; Boulder City 1.9; Henderson 1.0; Mesquite 2.1 and North Las Vegas 1.4.

It will cost about $90,000 to hire and equip an officer for Metro. The department hopes to hire 150 to 200 officers after the tax is first imposed.

"The biggest single cry I hear is we do not have enough traffic officers to keep the streets safe," Young said. "If I had my way, I would have an officer at every major intersection.

"Red light running has become a way of life in Southern Nevada," the sheriff said.

Olsen said the sales tax, rather than an increase in the property tax, was chosen because 30 percent will come from tourists.

The only opposition came from Knight Allen, a citizen activist, who said he was not opposed to more police on the streets, but he said the "earmarking" of tax revenue was "bad public policy."

"Giving our government bureaucracies a private tax is bad public policy and a mistake," he said.

The bill was approved in the Assembly 35-7.