CARSON CITY — Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick insisted Tuesday that police departments in Clark County specify how many additional officers they will hire before she backs a bill that could impose an additional quarter-cent More Cops sales tax.
“Citizens want to see more officers driving through their neighborhoods,” said Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “They only want this (money) for officers, not for administrative costs. Some officials didn’t keep their promises.”
During an Assembly Taxation Committee, Kirkpatrick said it would help not only her, but police themselves if she could go home and tell her constituents that they will see 50 or whatever number of new police officers if the Legislature passes Assembly Bill 496.
The committee took no vote on the bill, in part because of an amendment proposed by Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who spoke at this first legislative hearing for the proposal.
He wants to allow cities this July to impose a one-eighth percent sales tax increase and then impose the other one-eighth tax increase in 2015. The taxes would be imposed with approval of two-thirds of the Clark County Commission. The sales tax rate in Clark County in 2015 would be 8.35 percent if the increases were approved.
Taxation Chairwoman Irene Bustamante-Adams, D-Las Vegas, told Gillespie and police lobbyists to prepare reports on how many police would be hired, what penalties should apply if goals are not met and many other items by Thursday. He said he would. At this point, the bill is not exempt from an April 12 deadline to pass out of committee.
The Metropolitian Police Department, which serves the city of Las Vegas and unincorporated areas of Clark County, would hire 350 more officers within three years if the bill is passed, while the Henderson Police Department could hire 60 to 62.
“We did what we said we were going to do with the money and crime went down,” Gillespie testified. “Staffing levels are now down, and crime has come back.”
In 2004, Clark County voters approved a half-cent More Cops tax increase. Half of the increase was imposed in 2005. The goal had been to build the ratio to two police officers per 1,000 residents in each city. That goal was reached in 2009 by Las Vegas police but since has fallen because of declines in revenue.
The Police Department is at 1.73 and Henderson at 1.2 officers per 1,000.
Crime in Clark County climbed 12 percent last year and 4 percent this year, Gillespie said.
Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to sign the bill because the increase was approved by voters.
Gillespie said that even if the increase is approved immediately, more police would not be on the street until December 2014.