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July 16, 2019

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Commissioners enact tax hikes for police, stadium, convention center

Raiders Stadium Rendering

Courtesy of MANICA Architechture

An artist’s illustration of a stadium on Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard was revealed during a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 | 6 p.m.

The Clark County Commission on Tuesday did as it was told.

The local governing body amended county ordinances to enact room tax increases that will fund two resort corridor projects — the expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the construction of a 65,000-seat stadium that could house a professional football team.

During the special legislative session last month in Carson City, state lawmakers approved a bill that required the county’s elected officials to impose the tax increases for the resort corridor projects. But that didn’t stop Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a vocal critic of using $750 million of public money to finance the stadium, from casting a lone “no” vote.

Giunchigliani, who has called the bundling of the two projects a “political strategy,” spent more than 16 minutes of Tuesday’s commission meeting describing her opposition to the stadium portion.

“No one tells me how to vote,” she said.

Among her lengthy list of concerns: the lack of public benefit she said the stadium would yield and whether local taxpayers would be left on the hook for bond payments if visitor volume ever drops. She also said the room tax increases will unfairly impact low-income residents who live in weekly motels.

Those residents, she said, “will be paying for a billionaire’s stadium” — referring to Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who is sinking $650 million of his own money into the project.

The casino mogul unveiled his plans to build a stadium that could lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas at the beginning of this year, setting in motion a series of public meetings and, ultimately, the special legislative session.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow commended Giunchigliani for what she termed a “very good” list of concerns, but Scow said she felt obligated by the language of the state legislation to enact the room tax increases.

“We don’t want taxpayers on the hook for anything for this stadium,” she said.

The commission’s 6-1 vote approving the ordinance change enacts the following tax hikes:

• A 0.5 percentage-point increase to the room tax to fund the expansion and renovation of the convention center.

• A 0.88 percentage-point increase to the room tax within the gaming corridor and a 0.5 percentage-point increase in outlying areas of the county to pay for the public’s portion of the stadium project.

That brings the county hotel room tax up to 13.38 percent from 12 percent within the resort corridor. The tax increases are expected to generate an extra $1.7 billion in revenue.

Here’s a look at other actions the seven-member commission took Tuesday:

Stadium Authority Board appointments

The commission appointed three members to the Stadium Authority Board of Directors: Thomas White, the business manager and secretary-treasurer of the Laborers International Union of North American Local 872; Kenneth Evans, president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce; and Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of government relations and corporate responsibility for Caesars Entertainment.

Jones Blackhurst was one of six nominees put forward by Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, the two companies that generate the most room taxes in Clark County. Commissioners nominated and approved Evans and White from a list of dozens of applicants who applied to serve on the board.

The commission was responsible for appointing three of the nine members who will make up with Stadium Authority Board, which will oversee the facility and contracts with development partners as well as manage waterfall revenue distribution.

Last week, Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed three other people to serve on the board: Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, who will act as chairman; Dallas Haun, CEO of Nevada State Bank and executive vice president of Zions Bancorporation; and Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts International.

The commission voted unanimously to make its three appointments. Commissioner Susan Brager, however, said the commission should have been allotted more time to make the decision.

“Once again, we were given something with a timeline that I don’t feel was adequate,” she said.

The president of UNLV will appoint one member, and the other two members of the public will be elected by the seven appointed members.

Sales tax for police funding

The commission voted unanimously to enact a 0.1 percentage-point sales tax increase to pay for more than 300 additional police officers.

The tax increase will generate an estimated $39.2 million in new revenue each year, police officials said. Of that amount, about $7.9 million will go toward hiring 66 officers to patrol areas in and around the Las Vegas Strip and downtown. The remaining $31.3 million will be distributed to local police agencies to hire a combined 245 officers to serve in the community.

The Nevada Legislature passed the bill, known as the Crime Prevention Act of 2016, during the special session. It included enabling language, meaning it needed a simple majority of commissioners to approve it before being enacted.

The additional officers will help boost Metro Police’s staffing ratio closer to two officers per every 1,000 residents, department leaders said.

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