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Metropolitan Police Department pitches $511 million preliminary budget

The Metropolitan Police Department could end up with a $511 million budget in the next fiscal year that restores 51 officer positions cut in the economic downturn.

That puts the department’s authorized force at 2,606 officers, still far short of what it once had.

Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee discussed preliminary budget plans Monday. Initially, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie requested $518.6 million in his tentative budget. That figure dropped following discussions with city and county staff.

The department’s proposed $511 million budget is up from $489 million. That increase will come from increased contributions from the city and county and by adding $20 million from the department’s More Cops account, which pays officers through sales tax revenues.

The proposed increase puts the department nowhere near its pre-recession levels of funding or officers. The department used to have a $549 million budget and lost 426 officer positions in the last few years. That’s happened through attrition instead of layoffs.

Gillespie’s scuttled $518 million request would have put another 71 officers on the payroll, giving the department an increase of 122 officers instead of 51. That would have brought the force up to 2,677 officers.

The More Cops account uses sales tax revenues to hire police officers. That account started after an advisory vote in Clark County approved a 0.50-percentage point increase in the sales tax. The Legislature in 2005 authorized half that amount.

The More Cops account, which had close to $140 million at the start of the current fiscal year, will help prop up the budget with $20 million. That’s on top of the $76.9 million the account pays for officer positions assigned to the fund.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said the $20 million figure is a reasonable amount to help provide the department with resources without depleting the fund.

The 2015 fiscal year starts in July, and the budget will get a vote in April.

In the past year, commissioners have considered and rejected several proposals to raise the sales tax rate by varying levels to pay for more police officers.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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