Vegas sheriff again pitching 'More Cops' sales tax

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two previous attempts failed, but Las Vegas' top cop is making another pitch for Clark County lawmakers to raise the local sales tax from 8.1 percent to 8.25 percent so he can hire about 100 more police officers.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal (http://bit.ly/KtLdKC ) that he'll ask county commissioners Tuesday to approve the "More Cops" tax hike to go into effect in two steps by October 2015.

The sheriff is giving ground to critics of a surplus in an existing More Cops account, with a promise to cut the excess currently totaling $140 million about in half.

Police say the surplus stems from a quarter-cent sales tax that started in 2005 to hire more police officers. It's due to expire in 2025.

County voters in 2004 approved an advisory referendum for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for more officers. The state Legislature in 2013 authorized the Clark County Commission to increase the sales tax by up to 0.15 percentage point to pay for more officers. The increase would raise the cost of a $100 item by 15 cents.

A split Clark County Commission rejected two proposals in October that would have increased sales tax rates to boost the budgets of local police departments, after commissioners cited concerns about how the Las Vegas police department uses existing funds.

Gillespie has said his department is facing a $30 million budget deficit next year.

He has pitched the More Cops tax as a way to maintain police staffing in a region that is home to about 2 million residents and playground for 40 million tourists per year.

Without a tax increase, Gillespie said the number of sworn Las Vegas police officers will decrease from 2,483 to 1,871. With the increase, the state's largest police agency would be able to add 101 more officers.

Because the tax would be countywide, police departments in Boulder City, Henderson, North Las Vegas and Mesquite could get funding to support hiring about 70 officers, the Review-Journal said.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

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