For every $2 million in ‘More Cops’ taxes, Metro has added only one officer

By Daniel Honchariw

Since the More Cops tax was passed in 2005, amid all kinds of promises, Metro in fact has bolstered its force by only 325 officers.

It’s the latest personnel report submitted to Las Vegas Metro’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs — and included within its October 24 agenda — that especially sheds light on this remarkable fact.

Here are the calculations:

In 2005, on the eve of the More Cops Sales Tax Initiative, Metro’s force was comprised of 2,251 sworn officers.[1]

Through October 11, 2016, according to Metro’s own personnel report — provided Monday to its Fiscal Affairs Committee — the department’s active force had only marginally increased, to 2,576 officers. This includes positions funded through both Metro’s long-standing general fund and the newer More Cops fund.

This 325-officer net-gain constitutes only one-quarter of the 1,278 more cops that Metro projected as a result of the tax.

Metro can argue that its 2005 projections were based on a .5-pt sales-tax increase, rather than the .3-pt increase that currently sends dollars into Metro’s More Cops fund.

Still, proportionally controlling for that, Metro should have hired 60 percent of its projected 1,278 officers — or 766 officers. Yet Metro’s 325 net-gain is not even half of that.

But does not Metro claim to have hired 700-plus under More Cops? So how can the net-gain be only 325?

Despite budgeting for 700-plus additional officers in its More Cops fund through 2016, Metro has eliminated hundreds of positions formerly funded through its general fund. Thus, the increase of More Cops has been offset by a significant decrease in the department’s normally funded positions, thereby creating only a marginal increase in overall staffing numbers.

This means that Metro has been transferring costs from its general-fund to its More Cops fund, which it had promised voters not to do. (And that promise had made sense — why would Clark County voters agree to a More Cops tax if it was only going to cover-up existing fiscal shortcomings, rather than hire more uniformed police?)

However, Metro’s budgeting may not have technically violated the letter of the law, which used the more specific term, “supplanting.” The reason is that these cost transfers only affected future, not existing, budgets.

Such was not the case in 2015, when Metro supplanted $19 million of general-fund costs, having first gained prior legislative approval as the department faced a large shortfall at the fiscal year’s end.

Instead, this transferring of positions has taken place over years, whereby existing positions paid for by the general fund were removed as they became vacant, then were effectively moved into the More Cops fund.

For each $2 million in revenues, Metro’s force has grown by only one sworn officer.

More Cops fund balanceMost remarkably, because Metro’s More Cops account has taken in over $650 million in tax revenues since the sales-tax increase was approved by Clark County voters, this means the department has added only one policeman to the force for every $2 million received.

As Nevada Journal has previously reported, over $110 million of these revenues remain idle in the department’s More Cops fund. In fact, Metro has earned more than $29 million in interest based on the fund’s recurring, year-end balances from 2006 to the present.

Meanwhile, Metro continues to plead poverty.

Daniel Honchariw, MPA, is a policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

[1] See Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Annual Report, 2004-05

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