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October 24, 2014

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Commissioners question Metro’s plans for ‘More Cops’ tax money

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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.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie faced tough questions in his appeal to county commissioners for a bump in the sales tax that could be used to hire more officers and fill potential gaps in the Metro Police budget.

Commissioners, though, didn’t take a vote on the "More Cops" sale tax increase at their meeting Tuesday. A vote is scheduled to take place in a few weeks.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow channeled questions from her constituents, some of whom wanted to be assured the 0.15 percent sales tax boost, which was approved in a special legislative session in June, wasn’t to be used to increase police salaries.

Those salaries already are increasing, Gillespie noted, acknowledging the department restored merit pay and longevity pay in the fiscal year budget that began Monday. Depending on years of service and standing, that could amount to a 4.5 percent annual salary boost for an officer.

With those pay increases, the sheriff said the department’s $489 million budget is expected to end up about $30 million short.

Though the department expects its reserve fund to reach $31 million – and the sheriff has used reserve funds in the past to balance his budget – state law now allows the department to use More Cops tax revenue to balance its budget.

Gillespie has about $124 million already from a previous .25 percent More Cops sales tax hike, but he said that money couldn't be used because it was designated to cover the career-long wages of officers already hired.

However, under the new More Cops bill signed into law last month by the governor, a two-thirds vote by commissioners would add another .15 percent sales tax. Metro could use revenue generated under the new law to hire additional officers but also, with prior approval from the state Interim Finance Committee, to fill other budgetary needs.

Gillespie told commissioners he currently had 22 funded vacancies, and about 50 officers retire each year. But a new police academy is beginning this month and will include about 50 recruits. That should make up some of the personnel shortfall.

Even so, he said, a year from now, people will see “no significant increase” in officers.

Asked about the return of merit pay and longevity pay in this year’s budget, Gillespie said it was done in part with an eye toward future negotiations with the police union. When contract talks break down, arbitrators can decide who gets what. It might bode better for the sheriff’s side if the arbitrator sees the department reinstated those compensation perks earlier.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani asked if the More Cops dollars could cover the expense of body cameras for officers, an estimated $1.5 million, something Gillespie has vowed to bring to the department. The sheriff replied camera funding would come from the department’s “seizure fund,” money collected, for instance, during a felony arrest.

Throughout the meeting, Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Giunchigliani appeared to press the sheriff.

After the meeting, both commissioners said they left with more questions than answers.

In separate interviews, both said Metro was given enough money by the city and county to fund the 22 vacant-but-funded positions. Now both Sisolak and Giunchigliani question how the money was used.

“They aren’t hiring cops they’re already funded for,” said Sisolak, who also sits on Metro’s budget oversight body, the Fiscal Affairs Committee.

Now if he and fellow commissioners approve the .15 percent sales tax hike, Sisolak said the sheriff “will have even more money.” The commissioners' worry is the money will be used to raise wages.

“I’m concerned the public might feel that their sales tax went up, but a year from today they will see no more officers on the street, and potentially less,” Sisolak said.

Combined with the fact that merit and longevity pay are reinstated, he added, “I think citizens will rightfully ask, ‘What did the sales tax increase go for?’”

Gillespie said late Tuesday afternoon he had been “totally upfront” with commissioners about his budget, including those funded-but-vacant positions. (Clark County, with some 7,000 employees, currently has 192 funded, vacant positions, county administrators said, many the result of “normal turnover.”)

“This is what’s missed from the conversation,” Gillespie added. “If they don’t authorize the .15 percent, if they don’t believe me, what is their answer to funding this organization this time next year?

“There’s going to be a $30 million shortfall. So what’s their answer? If not the sales tax, what is their answer?”

More discussion and a vote on the matter is scheduled for the commission’s meeting in early August.

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  1. More cops money should go for more cops and nothing else. Merit pay raises should go only to the top ten percent at most and be based only on true merit, not inflated performance reviews. Longevity raises are just that and apply to everyone.

    Using more cops money for other than more cops shows that the whole deal may have been a scam from the git go and the usual political double talk.

  2. "This is what's missed from the conversation, if they don't authorize the .15 percent, if they don't believe me, what is their answer to funding this organization this time next year? There's going to be a $30 million shortfall. So what's their answer? If not the sales tax, what is their answer?"

    This sales tax revenue shouldn't be the patch to fix a $30M shortfall. It should be used to hire more cops. If there is a shortfall now, there should be a shortfall even if this gets passed, because you've added more officer positions and your payroll went up as a result.

  3. So, the "more cops" ploy was just a lie?

    Do cops even know what truth is ?

  4. Las Vegas Nevada April 29, 2013 The Veterans In Politics International is requesting a Forensic Audit to be conducted in regards to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

    We request an organization outside of the State of Nevada, and with no connections to Nevada, conduct this Audit, to insure that the investigation and results are not tainted by bias and corruption, and that no intimidation or isolation tactics will be used to influence the report. These conditions are well known to exist inside the LVMPD and are often employed on the local media.

    Millions of dollars are being wasted every year in LVMPD and millions of dollars is being asked for each year by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Douglas A. Gillespie. Certainly asking for a forensic audit is justified when Gillespie has asked that our sales tax increased in proposed Assembly Bill 496, to pay for more officers, equipment, salary increase for existing officers, and benefits.

    This tax affects every citizen in Clark County. Nobody can escape this tax. It is crucial to know on what LVMPD is spending before more revenue is taken from us.

    Here are some examples. The new LVMPD Headquarters building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard costs tax payers over one million dollars per month in rent. $42 million dollars for a faulty communication system that has cost people's lives. $1.2 million for 8 officers who work solely for the Police Protective Association. Outrageous salaries and pay outs to over 300 officers. The absurd sums that have been awarded to family members of those killed my LVMPD - deaths which could have been avoided with properly trained and dedicated officers. There are many more examples.


    It is time we as community demand accountability and it starts with a Forensic Audit.Sheriff Gillespie testified before the Nevada Assembly Taxation Committee that crime has increased. However, according to the Sheriffs own annual report for 2011, crime has decreased. This Sheriff lied repeatedly to the public to get sympathy for his own gain and ego.

    A Statement from Sheriff Gillespie in the Annual Report 2011: "Looking forward to a productive 2012, and the continued development of trust and partnership with our community, and further reduction of crime in the Las Vegas valley. Below are some of the department's noteworthy five year reductions in crime: