Sheriff will seek sales tax for deputies

Sheriff Ron Pierini will ask county commissioners to support a half-percent sales tax in April, to provide funding for the 45 additional employees needed at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office over the next five years to maintain service.

Pierini said he can't expect his deputies to respond to call after call without the appropriate manpower for backup in high risk situations. Public safety and the quality of life in Douglas County will suffer without the additional funding.

"In the past year, we've had two violent situations where deputies were shot," he said. "We have a higher volume of calls and a drug problem that's out of control. We're contributing to three different task forces for drug-related crime. It's something we have to address, but we can't do it with our existing manpower."

The Sheriff's Office handled 93,000 calls last year, Pierini said.

"We're dealing with real manpower issues in the whole criminal justice system," he said. "We need to lay out a plan concerning what we expect, what our revenues will be and how to accomplish those goals."

The initiative would require voter approval and the tax would be paid by everyone traveling through Douglas County.

In five years, an estimated $5 million would be generated, enough to cover the needs of the sheriff's department and provide funding for related services, like the courts, juvenile probation and prosecutors, Pierini said.

"More police equals more arrests," Pierini said. "That impacts other services, like the courts and juvenile probation."

Pierini said he was told by commissioners that there is not enough general fund money to provide the needed manpower and county departments would have to go to the voters for supplemental income.

"I've never been in favor tax increases, but I don't know where to go. The people of Douglas County elected me to do what's right and this is the only way I know how to generate the revenue," he said.

The proposal follows a similar voter-approved initiative that passed in Clark County in 2005, the legislation also restricting the use of any revenues generated to law enforcement.

Pierini said that will be included in the Douglas County voter initiative.

"Any interest generated would go to the sheriff's department, and the general fund allotment the department has today would remain the same," he said.

The sheriff's office currently has an $11 million budget and Pierini expects the new source of funding to help other departments by slowing the drain on their financial resources.

"Right now, there isn't enough funding for any department to expand," he said. "Passage of this initiative would mean other departments wouldn't have to give up personnel to cover the costs of police officers. They could complete their mission and we could grow."

Commissioners should consider the initiative in April. If approved, it will be placed on the November ballot. If voters approve that initiative, a bill draft request will be forwarded to the Legislature, who could approve the tax next year. The soonest any relief could be expected would be October of 2007, Pierini said.

"This proposal would be a policy set by the people in Douglas County," Pierini said. "I think that's fair."

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


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