LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — The Metropolitan Police Department’s estimated $68 million budget shortfall next year has Sheriff Doug Gillespie preparing for a worse case scenario. He must find the money by April or be forced to make drastic cuts, including patrol officer positions, which are already at a bare minimum.
Metro estimates it will cost about $525 million to run the department next year. They have already scrapped two police academies, closed a substation and cut more than 230 positions in the last two years.
Gillespie detailed to the police commission how serious the situation is, calling on help from the City of Las Vegas and Clark County. In 60-days, he wants to know how much the department will get from each entity, and he expects a financial tug of war.
“The city and the county have had to reduce service levels as well, eliminate positions as well, so none of these decisions are going to be easy,” he said.
The county says it has no more to give and that deeper cuts are inevitable. Uniformed officer numbers are already near minimum safety levels.
“You can’t reduce their resources and numbers below acceptable levels,” said Gillespie.
Another big reason Metro is in this bind is Clark County’s declining property taxes, which have seen a 36 percent drop accounting for nearly $61 million that normally would have been in the police budget. The sheriff plans to ask the Nevada legislature to re-allocate $54 million earmarked to hire new cops to help fill the budget.
One of the more surprising moments of the meeting was a $350 donation that got a standing ovation. Paul Jones collected soda cans and donated the money to the department.
“I heard bad things were going to happen. I wanted to help save people’s jobs and help donate money,” he said.
What’s inside his piggy bank may not be much, but Gillespie says the gesture gives him goose bumps. With the department facing one of the toughest financial binds since the 1980′s, Jones is just happy he can give some relief.
“Thank you for keeping the bad guys off the streets,” he said.