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Cops tax increase gets County Commission support

County commissioners voted 5-2 Tuesday to support raising the sales tax an additional quarter-cent to pay for more police officers.

But Sheriff Doug Gillespie still faces an uphill battle persuading Nevada legislators next year to support the proposal, which they turned down in 2009. The measure commissioners voted on was merely a voice of support that Gillespie could present to state lawmakers when they meet in February.

The measure would bring in an estimated $50 million each year.

County Commissioner Larry Brown said statistics showed that there was a need for more officers. Crime is down 20 percent over the past several years but has risen 9 percent this year from last year, Gillespie said. The department has cut 238 officer positions over the past few years, he added.

"Is there an acceptance level with increased crime? I say, ‘No,’ " Brown said. "I don’t think anything is more important than public safety."

In 2004, voters in Clark County approved a nonbinding advisory question calling for a one-half cent sales tax to pay for more police officers. Las Vegas and other police departments in the county are eligible for the money.

During the 2005 legislative session, however, the Legislature limited the increase to one-fourth cent on the condition police could come back for the remainder later.

Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak voted against the increase Tuesday.

Sisolak said that while voters approved it in a boom year, the fact that they overwhelmingly turned down property tax initiatives that would have paid for schools and Henderson libraries this year was evidence that voters’ appetite for tax increases has waned.

"I think the time has changed so much since this was passed in 2005, that people are just looking a little differently," Sisolak said. "Eight years ago they had jobs, their houses hadn’t fallen 50 to 60 percent."

Gillespie said the opinion of the board was important to persuading lawmakers.

"I’m pleased," he said after the decision was made. "I appreciate the support of the County Commission."

Commissioners on Tuesday also:

■ Decided to introduce, at a future meeting, an ordinance that would increase recycling pickups from every two weeks to every week but would reduce trash pickup to just once per week.

Residents would not have to sort recyclables into the traditional red, white and blue bins – all recyclables would be stored in a large container. The issue will have to come before the board for at least two additional meetings before it can be approved.

■ Set a date to hear competing proposals to change the coroner’s inquest process. The two ideas would be heard at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting.

■ Delayed voting on turning oversight of University Medical Center over to a separate board. The decision probably will come to a vote as early as their Jan. 7 meeting.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781.

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