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Clark County approves $1.2 billion 2014 budget

Clark County commissioners Monday approved a $1.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year that reflects a cautious outlook in response to the local economy’s slow climb out of the recession.

The budget isn’t marked by the steep cuts made in the years immediately following the economic collapse in 2008. Nor does it have a rosy outlook with revenue growing rapidly.

Instead, there’s a 2.8 percent increase in the general fund budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. That’s $33.2 million more compared with the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“We’ve turned the corner a little bit,” said Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak. “It’s coming back, but it’s coming back very, very slowly. It’s important we hold the line in the expenses moving forward.”

Commissioners approved the budget 6-0, with Commissioner Tom Collins absent.

The budget carries a $48 million deficit, which requires dipping into reserves. The county’s financial picture is also complicated by other factors that include less property tax revenue and rising pension rates.

General fund revenues for the next fiscal year are projected to reach $1.15 billion, an estimated increase of just 0.8 percent, or $8.7 million, over this year.

Property taxes, which are included in general fund revenues, are on track to go down this fiscal year by $3 million, a 1.2 percent reduction. Revenue from licenses and permits, an indicator of economic growth, is on track to grow by 1.7 percent, or $3.7 million.

County property tax rates will stay the same. Earlier this month, commissioners discussed the idea of boosting property taxes to cover growing costs tied to University Medical Center. They shelved the idea in favor of getting community feedback and completing further analysis in the upcoming year.

The county’s public safety spending, which includes the fire department and Metropolitan Police Department, increases the most, by 3.2 percent, or $7 million.

The county’s action gives the Metropolitan Police Department a $489 million budget, a cost shouldered by both the county and the city of Las Vegas.

That’s $13 million shy of Sheriff Doug Gillespie’s $502 million request, but more is still in play. The Legislature has yet to approve the “More Cops” bill, which would allow the county commissioners to raise the sales tax rate by a 0.15 percentage point, with the money going toward hiring additional police in the county.

The Metropolitan Police Department would get 73 percent of the funding, which Gillespie has said would keep 300 current police officers patrolling the streets and plug a $30 million budget hole.

The bill still faces a vote on the state Senate floor.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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