By Daniel Honchariw
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has effectively transformed its More Cops fund into an interest-earning savings account.
This may explain, at least partially, why Metro for the last eight years has not spent the More Cops money it has received from taxpayers on actually hiring More Cops.
An October 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal article highlighted Metro P.D.’s massive, current More Cops account balance.
The article accurately stated that Metro maintains over $100 million in funds earmarked specifically for the hiring of more uniformed police officers — although one might not know it based on the department’s current lobbying for additional revenue streams for that precise purpose.
Since the fund’s 2005 inception, when Metro began receiving the marginal revenues from a .25-pt sales-tax increase (now .3-pt), it has accumulated far more funds than it has spent during each year since.
Just how much has Metro saved each year?
Enough to have earned upwards of $8 million in interest based on 2008’s unused balance alone!
Over time, these earnings add up — to approximately $27.6 million in accumulated interest through 2015.
The fund’s interest earnings over the last decade — based on the amount of funds Metro has saved each year — far exceed the $7.9 million in annual tax revenues the department recently requested to increase staffing levels along the resort corridor.
Interestingly, neither the More Cops fund’s existing balance nor the interest earned on those balances was mentioned during Metro P.D.’s recent plea for more tax revenues.
On September 15, sitting before the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, Sheriff Lombardo publicly projected that his proposed 0.1-pt increase to the sales tax would produce an additional 64 police officers to be stationed within the resort corridor.
The meeting’s official minutes document this projection as follows:
Commissioner Sisolak asks how much money the tax would produce to pay for officers within the Resort Corridor. Mr. Aguero responds the estimate is $7.9 million. Commissioner Sisolak asks how many additional officers the funding would add to the area. Sheriff Lombardo states his estimate is 64.
On its face, this estimate seems reasonable — each additional $1 million can fund about eight new hires at a per-officer price of $125,000 per year.
But if $7.9 million per year is what Metro needs to fund those 64 additional officers, nothing is preventing the department from hiring those officers today.
As noted in the same October 2 Las Vegas Review-Journal article, the fact that Metro is not hiring in the quantities of officers it claims to need has little to do with its underlying financials.
Alright, I know you are probably tired and wondering if what you see ahead is a mirage or what. Believe me, I’ve been there, too. But, after a lot of vacuuming, scrubbing, dusting and dishes — I tend to think and recharge when I clean — I put on my resolve to ignore the negative press and see ESAs cross the finish line. There are 8,000 Nevada kiddos clinging to the program. They cannot afford to spend one more day in an educational system that is failing their needs.
Yes, last week’s ESA win was truly a landmark decision, marking a pivotal change to the face of education in this country. It should be celebrated. It should be hailed for the groundbreaking moment that it is. And, NevadaESA.com is forging forward.
But, I admit, I just can’t forget the other, immediate side of the issue — the one where 8,000 Nevada children are still hanging in limbo. This is the side that keeps Nevada’s kiddos — and each of your families — near to my heart. And, I just can’t move beyond that. So, I’m not going to ramble on about how great last week’s ruling is for the country— or even Nevada. Instead, I am just going to say that while some fatigue at this point is natural, depressed energy can instead be directed outward, productively, and parents can carry this program over the finish line. NevadaESA.com is geared up and we’re pushing through that finish line — full speed.
As I said Friday, the funding issue is a legislative fix. After all, appropriations (funding) are what legislatures do. And, there is a possibility to get ESA funding this school year. Now, I’ll be honest, it’s not necessarily easy. It will take some work. It is not a guarantee. But, the possibility does exist.
The first thing which must happen is the Governor needs to put ESA funding on his agenda for the special session. Only the Governor can call for a special session, and he alone can set the agenda. It so happens that Governor Sandoval is currently trying to convene a special session for a Las Vegas stadium. If Sandoval places the ESA matter on the special session agenda, lawmakers will have an opportunity to fund the program now. Governor Sandoval has always been a champion of school choice. It is entirely possible — through Sandoval’s leadership — that ESAs for the 8,000 kids waiting could be funded this school year.
Treasurer Dan Schwartz, whose office administers the ESA program, has already called on Sandoval to include ESAs on a special session agenda. Various lawmakers have come forward publicly requesting ESA on the agenda. Parents across the state are calling to ask the same. At this point, it appears the Governor has not made his decision. But media reports say he’s seriously considering putting it on the special session agenda. So it appears the Governor is listening. That means your voice matters.
If you or your family and friends would like to share your thoughts with Governor Sandoval, you can email him by going to http://gov.nv.gov/Contact/Email-the-Governor/.
Or, you can call him at 775-684-5670. And, while I’m not a big social media person, I hear parents and community members have reached out to him on Twitter at @GovSandoval.
As I said, placing ESA on a special session agenda is no guarantee an appropriation will pass. Most certainly, it is up to lawmakers to introduce and pass a bill. Now, the great thing about our country is that elected officials welcome — even crave — constituent feedback on issues. Once upon a time, a lawmaker from Florida shared with me that she wished she had more input from her constituency. She explained that so often once lawmakers are elected, constituents rarely continue to provide input about how they feel on issues. Officials, she admitted, are then left with only the insight of special interests and lobbyists — that’s all they regularly see and hear. So, when an issue sparks a fire in the constituency, it has a powerful impact on the elected official. I will tell you, that little conversation has stuck with me and drives me to remember: my voice really does make a difference — I just have to express it.
You can contact your lawmakers to let them know you strongly support the ESA program and would like them to do so also. If you enter your address here, it will link you to your Nevada representatives. You will find a directory for state Senators here and the Assembly Members here. You can call and email them to let them know how you feel.
You may also want to contact the legislative leadership and let them know your thoughts.
- Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Michael.Roberson@sen.state.nv.us, 702-612-6929
- Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, John.Hambrick@asm.state.nv.us, 702-242-8580
- Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, Paul.Anderson@asm.state.nv.us, 702-410-6645
If ESA gets a place on the agenda, I’ll cover next how you can testify at the legislative hearing. Yes, children can testify at legislative hearings. They can also call Governors and legislators. After all, it is their very lives that hang in the balance.
Before I close out, one quick note. ESA applications closed at 5:00 p.m. on September 30 as scheduled. Applications are scheduled to re-open on November 1. So, don’t be surprised if the Treasurer’s website has removed the application. It is standard practice.
Well, I’m guessing you all know the Nevada Supreme Court’s ESA decision is in. But, just in case you’ve missed it, yesterday the Court finally issued its rulings on the different ESA lawsuits. The ruling was mixed — upholding the program’s constitutionality but striking down the funding as state lawmakers implemented it in 2015.
Okay, I admit, that sounds a little wishy-washy and ambivalent. And, I’m sure if you’ve been watching all the media coverage, many of you are completely confused.
It would be natural with the contradictory shouts of “We won!” “No, WE won!” – and media headlines saying both sides claim victory, and media outlets reporting “ESA program shutdown!” and “ESA program lives on!”
Who wouldn’t be confused?
Hopefully, I can give you some clarity.
First off, ESA lives on! Yesterday was a landmark day. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of the program, declaring the program itself constitutional. This was a critical hurdle to overcome.
Unfortunately, for the 8,000 children anxiously waiting to utilize this program, the Supreme Court also held that the program was improperly appropriated and therefore cannot be funded using the Distributive Student Account (DSA) funds as planned. In layman’s terms, the program is constitutional, but remains unfunded. But, this, my friends is fixable. Issues of funding and the mechanics of such are common legislative fixes.
In fact, Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz has already called on Governor Sandoval to add ESA funding to the agenda for the proposed upcoming special session on the Vegas football stadium. If Sandoval places the ESA on special session agenda, lawmakers can fund the program. And, folks, there IS hope for that. Governor Sandoval has been a champion of school choice. It is possible that — with the help of Sandoval’s leadership — ESAs could be funded for this school year.
Parents across the state are already asking Governor Sandoval to save their children by placing the country’s #1 educational choice program on the special session agenda. Yesterday, Sandoval said the issue should wait until February. But, just this afternoon, reports came in saying Sandoval has not decided whether or not to put it on agenda. You can find Governor Sandoval’s phone number and email on the parent Facebook group ACE of Nevada. And, if you are a twitter person, they even have his twitter handle.
I’m not a big social media person, but I say, #LetOurChildrenSucceed and let Nevada parents lead the way!!
You parents can also contact your lawmakers to let them know you strongly support the ESA and would like them to do so also. If you enter your address here, it will link you to your Nevada representatives. You can call and email them to let them know how you feel.
After all: ESA is not about partisan politics – it’s about your children’s lives and futures.
As we head into the weekend, please know that yesterday’s ruling IS A WIN! Yes, there is still more to do to reach the finish line. But, thank goodness, there is more that CAN still be done.
As always, I am happy to answer questions you may have. We will stay strong!
Education Savings Accounts:
The Nevada Supreme Court finally released its opinion on the state’s sweeping educational choice program, Education Savings Accounts. The Court ruled that ESAs are, in fact, constitutional, but took issue with how they were funded — saying the steps the legislature followed did not meet constitutional specs. Unfortunately, the ruling means the program will remain on hold until the legislature addresses the funding issue. Parents and lawmakers have already started pressuring Gov. Brian Sandoval to include the ESA issue on the agenda for the upcoming special session. (Read more)
The Silver State is not what it used to be. Once considered a relatively strong example of limited government, Nevada has been steadily increasing government largess, all the while cutting deals for crony companies and industries. Its freedom ranking has fallen from 5th to 11th in the nation, and politicians have been increasingly eager to hand out taxpayer dollars to politically connected billionaires. (Read more)
Harken Health Insurance, a brand new insurance startup that focused on offering low-cost health plans through the Obamacare exchanges, is leaving the marketplace. Despite having launched less than a year ago, the company was unable to continue to offer insurance through Obamacare after suffering unsustainable financial losses. (Read more)
Updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) that change federal rules dictating when employers must pay overtime wages, are only the most recent in hundreds of regulations added by executive agencies during Obama’s presidency. The most recent updates now mean human-resources administrators all across the country must change their organizations’ personnel policies to reflect new Obama administration regulations. Moreover, they must try to do so without compromising their organizations’ ability to perform their missions. (Read more)
Las Vegas Metro will soon have more body cameras for its police officers — but the negotiations leading to the decision were far from easy. From the beginning, the police union refused to budge on its opposition to body cameras until Metro conceded to the union’s demand for additional salary increases. (Read more)
Public Employee Retirement System:
Nevada isn’t the only state struggling with a pension crisis. Nationally, stories about unfunded liabilities and excessive public employee pensions seem almost commonplace. (Read more)
The U.S. public pension crisis extends far beyond Nevada, with many states finding themselves in a similarly dire situation. Below are a few pension related stories from the past month:
The Los Angeles Times documents the legislative enhancements that led to the nation’s largest public pension fund — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) — finding itself nearly $300 billion in debt. Nevada experienced similarly irresponsible pension enhancements, although they were spread out over several legislative sessions, not just one.
The New York Times exposes how U.S. public pensions use two sets of books: one keeps publicly reported debt low, while the full amount is only revealed if an agency attempts to leave the system: “After all, the little fund held far more money than it needed, according to its official numbers from California’s renowned public pension system, Calpers. Except it really didn’t. In fact, it was significantly underfunded. Suddenly Calpers began demanding a payment of more than half a million dollars.”
The Financial Times reports that the “US public pension crisis is really hard to fix” with experts at Stanford pegging the combined unfunded liability at $3.4 trillion nationwide.
The Washington Post reports that Dallas police officers are scrambling to cash out of their pension fund as it nears bankruptcy.
The Oregonian reports on a board member imploring lawmakers to immediately enact pension reform, stating that: “This is becoming a moral issue. We can't just talk about numbers anymore."
- The South Carolina State Treasurer says pension debt threatens to "swallow us whole," according to the Index-Journal.
For the latest on Nevada PERS, be sure to visit npri.org/issues/detail/pers.
Below is a fantastic video by Bellwether Education Partners that explains how teacher pensions work, in less than 3 minutes!
In The Pension Pac-Man: How Pension Debt Eats Away at Teacher Salaries Chad Alderman explains how rising retirement costs penalize today's teachers:
It may be counterintuitive, but higher retirement contributions have not translated into better retirement benefits for teachers. In fact, in the wake of the recent recession, states accelerated a trend of offering newly hired employees less generous benefits than what was provided to their older peers. Even as employer contributions toward teachers’ retirement plans are at all-time highs, those same employers are actually offering new teachers worse benefits. After all those cuts, today is the worst time to become a teacher in decades, at least in terms of net retirement benefits.
What's causing this situation? Unfortunately for teachers, the rising costs of their retirement systems do not reflect improved benefits, it's primarily a function of debt.
Be sure to read the full report by the Bellwether Education Partners here.
And to keep up with the latest from NPRI on Nevada PERS, click here.
As if NVPERS members didn't have enough to be frustrated about with reduced benefits and higher costs, PERS board members have added insult to injury: “Our workforce is dumbed-down… Their capacity to understand this stuff is pretty diminished. I’m sorry, it just is,” says Chairman Mark Vincent. Not only are his claims insulting, but misleading. In fact, it was PERS board members who misunderstood the fundamentals of how PERS rate hikes have impacted workers and taxpayers. (Read more)
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has filed the first state-led lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules — rules aimed at forcing private companies into paying overtime for large swaths of previously exempt employees. “Not only do we think [this is] an unlawful rule, but this rule will ratchet upward automatically forever,” Laxalt said. “We do not believe that federal law allows this to go into effect.” (Read more)
Fiscal and taxes:
This isn’t the kind of bipartisanship most taxpayers were hoping for: Six of the 14 Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee joined with Democratic counterparts in favor of providing a multibillion-dollar bailout for a private union pension and healthcare fund. (Read more)
After five days of asking for donations, an apparent online fundraising effort for the Newark Teachers Union failed to attract even a single contribution. Maybe if the union provided substantive value to its members, it wouldn’t have to resort to inadequate GoFundMe fundraising efforts. (Read more)
California Gov. Jerry Brown is considering whether to sign a bill that would allow tens of thousands of incarcerated felons to vote. The Legislature sent a bill to Brown’s desk that would restore voting rights to an estimated 50,000 convicted felons who are currently behind bars in county jails. If signed, the bill would create an odd situation in California where felons incarcerated in county jails could cast a ballot, while prisoners in state penitentiaries — as well as parolees — would remain prohibited from doing so. (Read more)
More Cops tax:
To get Clark County voters to pass the 2004 “More Cops” sales-tax ballot measure, Metro’s then-sheriff and other local-government officials repeatedly and very publicly promised the funds would only be used to put more police on the street. Nevada lawmakers early the next year made the same pledge and even wrote it into state law. Ten years later, however, lawmakers and Metro both quietly, but explicitly, broke that promise. And now, they’re asking for even more ‘More Cops’ taxes. (Read more)
Fiscal and taxes:
Plans for a $1.9 billion stadium, including $750 million of taxpayer funding, won the recommendation of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was the only person to speak out against the project during Thursday’s meeting, saying “I support a stadium, but not with public financing.” The proposal will now go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for consideration. He is expected to call for a special session to get legislative approval for funding. (Read more)
Freedom of speech:
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that designates internet domain names and addresses, is currently overseen by the U.S. Commerce Department. But things might not remain that way. The Obama Administration intends to transfer oversight of ICANN to international control, thereby giving nations known for substantial human rights abuses — such as suppressing free speech — partial control over a basic and essential component of the internet. (Read more)
President Barack Obama has created a 4,900 square mile no-go zone for commercial fishing and other activity off the coast of New England as the first-ever Atlantic marine monument. Now known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the area was considered one of the prime commercial fishing areas for lobster and crab. The designation as a national monument will virtually shut down these activities throughout the area, despite the fact that fishing practices had been considered well-managed and sustainable. (Read more)
America is known as “the land of the free,” and traditionally this has been the case according to the Cato Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World annual reports. Just as recently as the year 2000, America was consistently ranked among the top nations for economic freedom, second only to Hong Kong. Since then, however, things have changed. America now ranks 16th for a second consecutive year. (Read more)
More Cops tax:
In 2004, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department campaigned aggressively for more money. The declared purpose was to hire more officers to account for growth in population and help reduce crime. However, an investigation by the Nevada Policy Research Institute shows that the lofty promises of the “More Cops” tax haven’t been met. In fact, the investigation has revealed a pronounced absence of new hires, an end-of-year bank balance this year well over $100 million and a major increase in per-officer costs. (Read more)
Some environmentalist groups are pushing lawmakers to restrict — if not outright prohibit — energy production on federally controlled lands. While such a proposal would cost the United States billions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of jobs, it is western states that would bear the brunt of the costs. For states like Nevada with disproportionately high levels of fed-controlled lands, the prohibitions would be economically devastating. (Read more)
The total number of private-sector job openings in the United States is at an all-time high since 2000, when the statistic first began being tracked. But that’s no thanks to government. Not only is it private sector job openings that are breaking records, but past government interventions have almost certaingly stifled the creation of many more jobs. (Read more)
Labor leaders like to claim that unionization represents an American value. The truth is, while voluntary unionization may represent some such classic value, the coercive and mandatory unionization labor bosses regularly seek undermines the freedom of association. Such heavy handed compulsion is hardly an American tradition. (Read more)
While more than 8,000 students anxiously await the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision on Education Savings Accounts, Native American students in the U.S. might get their own version of the reform. If passed, a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) would give Native American students currently attending schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education the option of using 90 percent of per-pupil federal funding for ESAs. (Read more)
Recently, Harry Reid and 19 of his closest friends in the United States Senate launched a coordinated attack on free-market policy groups. Unfortunately, the sorry display of Soviet-style political intimidation from these senators is just the tip of the iceberg. The IRS, attorneys general and even the DOJ also have a record of harassing, intimidating and bullying anyone who dares to challenge their stranglehold on power. (Read more)
Over $1.7 million has been paid to dead federal workers, according to the Social Security Administration’s inspector General. According to the audit, the agency failed to crosscheck beneficiaries’ deaths with the Office of Personnel Management, leading to the deceased receiving benefits for an average of seven years after their death. (Read more)
A new analysis by the Nevada Policy Research Institute questions the extent to which the drop in nominal unemployment truly signals an economic recovery. In fact, a key factor behind any apparent reduction in the state’s unemployment rate appears to be a mass migration out of the state’s labor force. Most disturbing, according to some businesses, is the extent to which the quality of the labor force has also deteriorated over recent years. (Read more)
Public sector growth:
As far as employment is concerned, the government sector continues to grow, while the private sector continues to struggle. Government employees in the United States now outnumber the total number of manufacturing employees, by almost 10 million positions. (Read more)
Apple is in trouble with the European Union, which insists the company owes the Irish government back taxes. The only problem, however, is that Ireland’s government disagrees. The EU has repeatedly blasted Ireland for its low corporate tax rate, saying “tax competition” is bad for other member nations — but the EU is now taking things a step further by aggressively arguing that a sovereign nation’s own coffers are “wrong” about a company’s tax bill. (Read more)