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April 18, 2014

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Local Government:

Commission likely to decide fate of ‘More Cops’ sales tax Tuesday

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Steve Marcus

Metro Police officers patrol Fremont Street near the Las Vegas Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, August 1, 2012.

Fremont Street Police Walk

Metro Police Officers Bryce Jones and Rachel Calderon patrol Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011, as part of an initiative called Crime Free Corridor, a plan to reduce crime downtown. Launch slideshow »

After delaying the initial vote two months, the Clark County Commission will likely decide Tuesday whether to increase the region’s sales tax in order to pay for more police officers.

The commission will debate the tax proposal and discuss how to finance $80 million worth of needed repairs at the county jail when they hold their regular meeting at 9:15 a.m. at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

More Cops vote

The commission delayed a vote on a proposal to raise the county’s sales tax by .15 cents in early August in order to do more research.

Two months later, a competing proposal that would halve the increase to .075 cents has emerged, but it’s still unclear whether either will garner the supermajority of five votes needed to pass.

The commission will discuss and likely vote on both proposals Tuesday, after Sheriff Doug Gillespie makes his final sales pitch and the public has a chance to comment.

Gillespie has framed the tax increase since its inception in December as a needed measure to bolster the ranks of Metro Police.

The department is facing a $30 million shortfall next year and could be forced to eliminate 250 officer positions without more revenues.

Commissioners have disagreed about the severity of Metro’s budget situation, and several have urged the department to tap the $136 million it has in reserves to cover at least part of the deficit.

Other local police departments in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Boulder City would also receive funding if the commissioners approve an increase in the sales tax rate, which currently sits at 8.1 percent.

Jail repairs

The county has known about widespread problems in the Clark County Detention Center’s heating, plumbing, electrical and other building systems since 2010.

The expensive repair bill came at a bad time for the county, which saw its budgets shrink drastically during the recession, and the majority of the renovations were delayed.

After an initial round of repairs costing $23 million wrapped up in May, county officials are eyeing the next phase of repairs, which will replace systems throughout the jail at a cost of at least $78 million.

With only $68 million on hand to pay for the repairs, the commission will have to decide how to finance the rest of the project. Options include reducing the scope of the project or completing it on a slightly slower timeline.

Complicating matters is the high number of inmates at the overcrowded jail who will be displaced during construction, which could escalate costs by several million dollars.

Courthouse auction

Clark County will try its hand at the real estate business Tuesday when it puts a prime piece of downtown property up for auction.

The county hopes to get at least $10 million for the 2.7-acre property located at the corner of Third Street and Carson Avenue, but there’s a catch — it comes with an asbestos-ridden, seven-story building in severe disrepair.

The building once served as the county courthouse for 45 years before closing in 2005.

Now it stands as an obstacle to any would-be purchasers after an appraisal judged tearing the building down as a cheaper and more favorable option than trying to restore it.

The county knocked $3 million off of its asking price to account for the costs of razing the building, but bidding could drive the final sale over the $10 million minimum.

If the minimum bid is reached, the proceeds would be split between the county and Las Vegas, which share ownership of the building.

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