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August 21, 2014

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Local Government:

Commissioner not giving up on tax increase for Metro

Tom Collins is drafting a third proposal for the ‘More Cops’ sales tax increase

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Mona Shield Payne

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins

Despite failing to pass twice during Tuesday’s Clark County Commission meeting, one county commissioner is already working on a new version of a sales tax increase proposal to pay for more police officers that he hopes to introduce later this month.

Commissioner Tom Collins has been a strong supporter of approving the full .15-percent sales tax increase being requested by Sheriff Doug Gillespie and refused to agree to a compromise proposal put forward by Commissioner Susan Brager to limit the increase to only .075 percent.

Brager, in turn, has refused to vote for the .15-percent increase backed by Collins, leading to a split that prevented either proposal from gaining the five-vote supermajority needed to pass earlier this week.

Collins said Friday he’s not backing down from the full .15-percent increase, but he’s willing to discuss phasing it in in smaller amounts over the course of several months.

“I plan to do the .15-cent (increase) with one vote, but I’m willing to discuss how we do that,” Collins said. “It’s definitely not going to be just .075 cents.”

Collins envisions part of the tax being implemented in early 2014 to allow revenues to start accruing, with the rest in place by July 2014, when the new fiscal year starts. He said he’s still crafting the ordinance but hopes to have it ready for introduction at the commission’s next meeting, with a potential vote in early November.

The county can raise the sales tax by up to .15 percent anytime before July 1, 2016, under the "More Cops" bill passed by the Legislature this past session.

Metro Police face a $30 million budget shortfall next year, according to the sheriff. The full .15-percent increase would allow the department to cover that deficit and avoid eliminating 250 officer position.

“If the county commission doesn’t approve the .15-cent (increase), Clark County and Las Vegas are going to have to come up with money out of their general funds to fill at least most of, if not all of, the shortfall in the sheriff’s budget,” Collins said.

The department is jointly funded through a combination of sales tax, property tax and contributions from Clark County and Las Vegas.

Police departments in Henderson, Boulder City, North Las Vegas and Mesquite would also receive a portion of revenues from any sales tax increase.

After Collins’ preferred .15-percent increase proposal received only three votes in support Tuesday, he faces a tough sell to other commissioners.

Brager said Friday she doesn’t think Collins’ proposal changes much and still won’t garner the votes to pass.

“I don’t see it happening. I’m not going for it,” she said.

She called her .075-percent increase proposal an equitable solution that benefits Metro without overburdening taxpayers.

If Metro proves it can use the first .075-percent responsibly and still has funding issues that need addressing, Brager said she would consider implementing the remaining .075-percent at a later date.

“Metro does have some things that they need to work on,” Brager said. “We’ve got until June 2016.”

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