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Sisolak: Property Tax Cap Forces County To Seek Sales Tax For More Cops


Clark County is again looking at a way to raise money to pay for more cops on the streets.

After rejecting many proposals to increase sales taxes to fund the hiring of more police officers, the Clark County Commission appears poised to consider the idea again.

This time around, Chairman Steve Sisolak told  KNPR's State of Nevada, he plans to support the increase.

Sisolak said a lack of tax revenue, brought about in part because of the state's property tax cap -- the cap prevented tax revenues from rising even as property values rose from the depths of the recession.

"With the huge (valuation drop) that came four to five years ago, when a $200,000 fell to $100,000 in one year, the property tax fell to (reflect the $100,000 home value)," he said.

But home values have increased dramatically. But property taxes on residences can only increase 3 percent a year. 

"So even if a home is now back up to $200,000, the property tax is based on just $100,000," Sisolak said. "It's going to take 25 years to get back to where we were."

Meanwhile, he has heard from constituents telling him they want more police on the streets.​

"There's a need for more police in our neighborhoods, on the Strip, in downtown Fremont Street," he said. "And while I don't think a sales tax is the most stable or fair way to pay for that, it's the only option right now."

Sisolak added that he has heard from constituents that they want Metro to respond to minor traffic accidents, again. As a cost and time-saving measure, Metro stopped responding to minor, non-injury accidents more than a year ago.

"I'm hearing concern from single women and senior citizens," the commissioner said. When accidents occur, even small ones, "law enforcement gives a sense of security and calm."

The commission will consider increasing the county tax rate from 8.1 percent to 8.15 percent. That will allow the hiring of about 135 more officers in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Other municipalities in the county will also get more revenue to hire officers.

Sisolak said the current officer-to-population rate is about 1.74 per 1,000 people. The new hires will help increase that rate to the preferred 2.0 per 1,000 people.

Though he feels a sales tax is regressive -- it hurts those with lower incomes more than those in higher income brackets -- Sisolak said he feels there's no other way to increase police numbers.

During the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers turned away a call to tax services. Sisolak said a service tax would have been a big help to Nevada municipalities.

"We're taxing necessities," he said, "and not taxing luxuries."

The commission will introduce the proposal at its meeting Tuesday. A vote could come as soon as September 1.

Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission chairman

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.