Ahead of a July 19 deadline with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters, the council must make a decision on sending the 0.25 percent sales tax increase to the November ballot as an advisory question.
City officials say the proposed increase would generate about $3.6 million a year, which would pay for 25 new police positions. Besides hiring and equipping the officers, money also would be used for five non-officer positions lost through recent budget cuts.
If the voters approve the tax, Sparks will need help from the Nevada Legislature to implement it. Enter the city’s one and only Bill Draft Request (BDR).
City Council members also will be asked Monday to decide on their annual petition to the Legislature, which the Sparks Police Department hopes will be a petition for the increased taxes. However, the BDR would be a moot point if the voters turn down the tax.
“If they put it on the ballot and if it’s successful on the ballot, then we would be looking to the Legislature for enabling legislation,” said Sparks Assistant City Manager Steve Driscoll. “We won’t know until November if the citizens are in favor but we have to start the BDR process.”
All bill draft requests from area cities are due to the Legislature by September.
“That’s part of the decision they have to make,” Driscoll said of the council’s position.
For the advisory question, voters would be asked, “Do you support an increase in the sales tax of Sparks of one-quarter percent for the purpose of hiring and equipping more police officers and police support personnel to better serve and protect the citizens?”
This year’s BDR isn’t the city’s first effort to help increase the police force. A similar 0.25 percent sales-tax hike for public safety went before voters in 2006 as part of a countywide ballot measure. It passed in Sparks and Reno, but failed in Washoe County, derailing Sparks’ efforts to hire additional police officers.
Officials said the city has 108 sworn officers, down from a peak of 121 in 2009. They said that work force is about 66 short of national standards for a city its size.