CARSON CITY — The “More Cops” bill that would allow the sales tax to be boosted in Clark County to put more police officers on the street was approved 18-3 in the Nevada Senate on Friday.
Sheriff Doug Gillespie has said the bill would lead to the hiring of 400 more cops for the Metropolitan Police Department, although the money could be used to cover decline in other revenue and keep police working who might be laid off.
For a new car costing $28,000, the tax increase would be $42.
The bill already has passed the state Assembly. Before it goes to the governor for his signature, the Assembly must concur in minor amendments made in the Senate.
Unlike other tax bills, Sandoval earlier this session said he would sign the More Cops bill because voters in 2004 approved the sales tax increase.
Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she voted against the bill because it should have gone back to voters for another vote. Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, and Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, also voted no.
Before Clark County can increase the sales tax rate by 0.15 percentage points in October, the County Commission must approve the increase by at least a two-thirds vote.
With approval, the sales tax rate in the county, now 8.1 pecent, would increase to 8.25 percent.
In a Senate hearing, an amendment to limit the increase to four years was approved. That would allow the Legislature to revisit the tax increase and decide whether funds are being spent as intended and determine whether to extend or end the increase.
The tax increase advisory question approved by voters called for a 0.5 percentage point tax increase. Legislators in 2005 approved a 0.25 percentage point increase and advised police in Clark County to come back later for the remaining increases. Gillespie testified that his agency has been unable to fill vacancies of many police who retired or quit and that crime has risen as the result.
The tax increase would produce about $30 million a year. About 73 percent of the funds would go to Las Vegas police, with the remaining amounts to the other police departments in the county — Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite.
During hearings, Gillespie testified how the initial plan of the More Cops tax had been to build a ratio of 2 police officers per 1,000 residents in each city. That goal was reached in 2009 by Las Vegas, but since has fallen because of declines in other tax revenue. His current fiscal year budget is $501 million, down from $549 million three years ago.
The Metropolitan Police Department now has 1.73 police officers per 1,000 residents and Henderson has 1.2 officers per 1,000. In a hearing, Henderson police officials spoke of hiring 60 more police through the bill. Crime in Clark County climbed 12 percent last year and has increased 4 percent so far this year, Gillespie testified.