Public safety is focus of new Clark County budget

Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick (Elizabeth Brumley Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Law enforcement and public safety will dominate most of Clark County’s $1.57 billion budget next fiscal year, after County Commission approved funding on Monday.

That includes $4.5 million to hire 49 corrections officers to work at the Clark County Detention Center’s North Valley Complex near Nellis Air Force Base.

Commissioners hope the additional employees will significantly decrease overtime costs at the jailhouse.

Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick, however, said that the county won’t realize the savings until at least next spring as the new hires will need to be trained, meaning that overtime expenses will be a factor in the interim.

“We hope that first and foremost that public safety for the officers is No. 1,” she said. “We have to make sure we have the right ratio of officers to the clients that are in there. At the end of the day, we hope to get them on track. Those numbers aren’t going down.”

Commissioners in March discussed hiring 30 new officers, but went far beyond that with the final budget.

Jessica Colvin, chief financial officer for the county, said the 19 extra positions will be paid for through $1.7 million that was found from a reduction in the Metropolitan Police Department budget. Colvin said the extra money will give the county a head start on a three-year staffing plan for the detention department.

“We knew that over the next two years, in 2020 and 2021, that additional positions were going to be requested,” Colvin said.

The detention department is also getting three new corrections sergeants, which will cost $382,344.

The budget takes effect July 1.

Overall, the county plans to spend $1.427 billion, up about 5.1 percent from last year. Conversely, county revenue is anticipated to be about $1.38 billion, a 3.6 percent increase from increased tax revenue.

Colvin said the expenditures include a one-time transfer to the capital improvement fund, and that recurring revenues are slightly higher than recurring expenses.

Overall, commissioners unanimously voted on Monday to create 244 new county positions, which will cost almost $20 million a year if they are all filled.

That includes a new judge, two deputy districts attorneys and two deputy public defenders — all who will be paid six-figure salaries — to staff a new Las Vegas Justice Court department that will focus on initial appearances. The courtroom is set to begin operations in January 2019 and should allow for defendants who pay bail sooner.

The county’s tax rate will stay flat for the 11th year in a row. Under the rate, 0.6391, the owner of a new $300,000 home without abatements would pay the county about $672 in property taxes.

However, property owners will also pay additional property taxes assessed by entities including the state, local governments, Metro and the Clark County School District. Those rates remained flat too.

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