Sales tax for legal system put on ballot

Voters in Douglas County will be asked to approve an additional .5 percent sales tax for the sheriff's office and criminal justice system this November. County commissioners unanimously approved the measure Thursday, following appeals from judges and other law enforcement professionals.

"It's not just budgets and money when you're dealing with the people affected by crime," said District Judge Michael Gibbons. "It makes a big difference to the abused children, or the small business that had funds embezzled. We have serious problems with methamphetamine, causing a ripple effect into many other areas and if we do nothing, the situation will only get worse."

Since 1990, Douglas County's population has increased by 81 percent and another 45 deputies will be needed in the next five years, according to Sheriff Ron Pierini.

District Attorney Scott Doyle said the issue has been approached with an eye on the entire judicial system and an awareness of the interdependence between departments, including the sheriff's office, judges, juvenile services and district attorney.

"I hope that will make the board more comfortable," he said.

Justice of the Peace Jim EnEarl said shortages in jail space are straining the system.

"There's not a day that goes by that we don't have to ask the staff about the daily (jail) count, then make a decision as to who will be released on their own recognizance," he said. "We aren't releasing child molesters or those who are a true danger to the community, but we are concerned about those who may or may not be questionable."

November's vote will be advisory and subject to Legislative approval. Commissioners stressed the importance of public support, but added a cautionary note. The Legislature approved a similar sales tax increase for Clark County, but the language was specific, limiting the legislation to Clark alone.

"There isn't a commissioner up here who wouldn't try to give you all the muscle you need for success, but my concern is the state Legislature," said commission Chairman Jim Baushke. "We're going to have to fight that battle. If I had a personal preference, I would have chosen the legislative path first."

Commissioner David Brady supported the sales tax, but feels it's poor public policy to dedicate a funding source like this for essential government services like law enforcement.

"Increasing the sales tax is a quick fix, short-term solution," he said. "But the public's appetite to increase property taxes is absent, despite our overlapping tax rate being the second lowest in the state."

Sheriff Ron Pierini said about 40 percent of sales tax revenues are generated by those living outside of the county. Since that group is responsible for a large percentage of service calls to the sheriff's office, it makes sense to have them share the cost. Property taxes are primarily generated by residents.

In other business:

• Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the Nevada Department of Transportation for a roundabout at the intersection of State Route 88 and County Road in Minden.

The project will go to bid in mid-April and construction will start after school is out. The roundabout should be completed before school starts in the fall, according to Fred Droes, chief safety and traffic engineer for the Department.

• An ordinance revision to provide for the licensing of dog fancier or breeder kennels and residents performing dog rescues will be re-worked, following opposition by local rescuers and rescue associations.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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