A conservative policy institute is blaming Metropolitan Police Department budget problems on high salaries.
In its annual critique of police officer earnings, the Nevada Policy Research Institute said 149 department employees each earned more than $200,000 in pay and benefits last year.
When only pay was considered, however, 17 employees were paid more than $200,000.
But 1,134 employees of the agency’s 4,742 full-time employees received more than $100,000 in pay alone.
“The employees of Las Vegas Metro continue to be some of the highest-compensated employees — public or private — in the Las Vegas Valley,” wrote Andy Matthews, president of NPRI, in a news release.
Matthews cited a police captain earning $585,000 in pay and benefits, a lieutenant earning $354,000 and an assistant sheriff earning $294,000 as three of the examples of an overpaid police force.
However, Matthews did not reveal that those officers are no longer working for the department.
Capt. Richard Collins and Lt. Robert Quackenbush received the majority of their unusually high compensation after they retired and cashed in unused paid time off.
Collins received $345,000, and Quackenbush received $189,000 in final payouts, police records show. Their base pay was $140,000 and $91,000, respectively, not factoring in health benefits, longevity pay or other allowances.
Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn, who Matthews also cited, retired earlier this year.
Las Vegas police officials on Tuesday were unavailable for comment on the NPRI study.
The department began feeling an economic crunch several years ago from falling property tax revenue and is facing a projected $46 million budget shortfall in the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie is asking legislators to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase to cover the difference.
Gillespie said the voters approved the More Cops initiative in 2004, but voters asked specifically for more officers to be hired, not for departments to cover their budget shortfalls.
Matthews said legislators would be foolish to approve the increase.
“Just as you wouldn’t give more alcohol to a drunk, you shouldn’t give more money to a government agency with a spending problem enabled by a bad collective-bargaining law,” he wrote.
Matthews said the department spent $1.8 million to pay officers to work for their unions instead of policing the streets.
If the tax increase initiative fails, Clark County and the City of Las Vegas will be asked to divert funds from other government budgets to cover the shortfall.
Las Vegas police have not laid off any officers but have not filled open positions for several years.
The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the union that represents rank-and-file Las Vegas officers, did not comment Tuesday.
NPRI released the data on its website, TransparentNevada.com.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.