Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2018

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Metro finally may get More Cops

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L.E. Baskow

Kids enjoy sitting on a police motorcycle assigned to Metro officer Don Worth during the National Night Out Block Party at Providence on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, in Knickerbocker Park. The event combined fun and education to promote community safety.

It has taken 10 years, three sheriffs and four failed proposals to get to this point, but starting next year, Clark County sales tax likely will rise, with the proceeds used to pay for more police officers.

The Clark County Commission will vote Sept. 1 on a revised version of the More Cops sales tax. Unlike in 2013, when a deeply divided board rejected the proposal, the measure appears to have the votes needed to pass.

What changed?

For starters, there’s a new sheriff in town, Joseph Lombardo, who has been able to tie increased funding to reopening a police substation in the western valley and a promise that Metro Police officers once again will respond to noninjury traffic crashes, which they haven’t done since 2014.

Just as important, one of the tax increase’s staunchest opponents, Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, has signaled that he supports the proposal, which would raise the countywide sales tax rate from 8.1 percent to 8.15 percent. That tax increase is smaller than previously proposed.

How much will sales tax rise?

If approved, the hike would translate to an extra 5 cents for every $100 spent on retail goods. It would take effect Jan. 1 and is expected to generate an extra $14.6 million a year for Metro, allowing the department to hire 133 additional officers. Another $4.8 million would go to hire dozens of officers at police departments in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Boulder City.

How did we get here?

The More Cops tax measure first was proposed during Las Vegas’ boom years, when the city’s exploding population outpaced Metro’s ability to pay for new officers.

In 2004, Clark County voters supported a ballot question to raise the sales tax. But only a portion of the sales tax was implemented because of the economic crash in 2008. Metro postponed the remaining increase, even as officer staffing levels decreased.

In 2013, former Sheriff Doug Gillespie revived the proposal, but the county commission couldn’t get the five votes it needed to approve it.

How is the vote shaping up now?

In 2013, commissioners were split into three groups: those who supported the full tax increase, those who supported a lower tax increase and those who opposed any increase.

In supporting the tax hike, Sisolak now joins commissioners Larry Brown, Susan Brager, Mary Beth Scow and Lawrence Weekly.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani remains the lone holdout. She criticizes the sales tax for being regressive and questions Metro’s use of its existing resources.

The commission also will have a new member voting on the proposal, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, whom Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed to replace former Commissioner Tom Collins, who resigned. Collins was the most vocal advocate of the full tax increase and blocked attempts to pass compromise versions.

Although Kirkpatrick hasn’t indicated how she’ll vote, her decision likely won’t affect the measure’s chances of passing.

The new version of the tax also is endorsed by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Resorts Association, which both opposed it in 2013.

“A lot of mitigating concerns have been addressed by the sheriff,” said Paul Moradkhan, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs. “We think it’s a fair rate that’s going to increase the number of officers on the ground.”

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