Clocking in on county overtime

LIHUE — Employees across County of Kauai departments accrued more than $5.4 million in overtime expenses during the 2013-14 fiscal year, according to a budget report prepared for the county’s Cost Control Commission.

During the first four months of this year, those same costs have already reached $1.8 million.

While overtime costs have remained consistent over the past three fiscal years — totaling just over $5 million each year — they are also being accrued at a time when officials are trying to bolster efficiency and gradually downsize the county’s workforce of 1,254 full-time county employees.

These efforts include reorganizing staff in county departments and handing over some vacant job responsibilities to existing employees, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. wrote in his budget message this year.

“We make a huge investment in personnel costs every year, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure we are as lean, efficient and productive as we can possibly be,” Carvalho wrote. “One important goal is to downsize our workforce over time without a loss of service level or productivity. The way that we operate and deliver services has evolved dramatically in recent years due to many factors, including the changing needs of our populace, advances in technology and improved competency of our workforce.”

County Finance Director Steve Hunt said paying overtime to current employees, rather than hiring more staff, can often be more cost effective.

Bringing in a new employee, he said, requires the county to incur additional expenses, such as medical premiums, retirement or pension and training costs, that do not incrementally increase due to additional hours worked.

“In some departments, fringe costs associated with employees exceed 50 percent of straight time pay,” Hunt wrote in an email. “Therefore, paying 1.5 times the straight salary (as overtime) to existing employees can, in some cases, actually be lower than hiring a new employee to fill the need with straight time pay.”

Mayoral candidate Debralynn “Mizdebz” DeSilva-Carveiro, however, said she is concerned by the amount of overtime costs accrued by county workers.

“I don’t understand why they’re getting paid overtime because nothing is getting done anyway — we don’t see any differences, so how can all of these county employees be paid overtime and yet we’re in the same situation,” DeSilva-Carveiro said. “What have they been doing?”

The need for OT

More than two-thirds of last year’s overtime costs — $4.2 million — were racked up by Kauai Police Department and Kauai Fire Department personnel, a break down of overtime expenditures by county department shows.

Fire and police officials, however, say overtime costs are necessary to meet growing service demands and train skilled personnel.

KPD employees alone reported just over $3 million in overtime — more than 12 percent of the department’s $24.2 million budget for the fiscal year.

The current fiscal year budget for the county is $176 million. The proposed 2014-15 county budget is $180.6 million.

As of March, a total of 232 people, including 50 civilians, were employed by the police department, according to county Police Commission documents.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Contrades wrote in an email that “KPD is doing its best to reduce overtime costs,” but is facing a number of challenges.

The chart below reflects overtime costs accrued by all four county police departments across the state during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the number of personnel in the department and the population they serve. 
 County   Population  Overtime  Employees
 Kauai  68,434   $2.6 million  195
 Hawaii  189,191   $3.5 million  549 
 Honolulu  976,000  $20.3 million  2,486
 Maui  154,834  $4.9 million  501

Over the last three decades, Contrades said KPD personnel experienced a 92 percent increase in service calls, from 20,974 in 1990 to 40,311 in 2013.

“This number (in 2013) represents the total number of calls that resulted in a police report being initiated,” County of Kauai spokeswoman Sarah Blane wrote in an email. “It does not capture all other types of calls, such as medical calls, fires, traffic stops and other calls that KPD — or other agency — might respond to.”

The total number of those calls, Blane wrote, reached 60,519 in 2013.  

During that same time period, however, Contrades said there has been only a small bump in hires and no increase in on-duty officers on any given shift.

A total of 40 KPD positions were listed as vacant as of March, according to county Police Commission documents.

To keep up with the island’s defacto population of 86,446 visitors and residents, Contrades said KPD officials would have to hire an additional 44 officers, based on U.S. Bureau of Justice staffing standards.

Between March 2012 and March 2014, KPD added 10 people to their ranks and slightly built up their number of total positions from 225 to 232.

But according to county Police Commission documents, the number of vacant KPD positions only fell by three during that same time.

County spokeswoman Sarah Blane explained that hiring an officer takes time, including a six- to eight-month window for the screening process; six months of recruit training; and three to four months of field training.  

“Our success at recruitment over the past two years has allowed us to fill nearly all of our vacancies and that is having a big impact,” Contrades wrote in an email. “However, for the foreseeable future, overtime expenses will be a reality as we meet the demands of our growing population within our budgetary constraints.”

These reported hiring increases prompted Carvalho’s administration to propose a $250,000 reduction in KPD’s overtime budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

“We found that KPD had a substantially larger overtime expenditure as a percentage of personnel costs than the other counties,” Carvalho wrote in his budget message. “Now that the backlog of vacancies has been largely filled and the leadership in the department has made dramatic reductions in overtime in the last quarter in 2013, we would like to work toward bringing overtime costs for KPD in line with state averages.”

When looking at other police departments throughout the state, Carvalho said KPD consistently dedicated the highest percentage of their salary budgets to overtime pay.

Fire in the hole

Fire department personnel, according to county Cost Control Commission documents, reported just over $1.1 million in overtime last year — about 5 percent of KFD’s $23 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The chart below reflects overtime costs accrued by all four county fire departments across the state during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the number of personnel in the department and the population they serve. 
 County  Population  Overtime  Employees
 Kauai  68,434  $2.6 Million  193
 Hawaii  189,191  $2.5 Million  419
 Honolulu  976,000  $7.7 Million  1,181
 Maui  154,834  $3.0 Million  313

A total of 193 people were listed as fire department employees, county budget documents show.

KFD Deputy Fire Chief John Blalock said some of the costs were necessary to comply with active collective bargaining agreements, which spell out conditions for regular overtime pay and those accrued by personnel over holidays.

Four KFD positions, fire department officials said, are currently vacant but will be filled by May.

Another key cause of overtime costs, he said, is the fire department’s Rank for Rank training program for certain employees, which is “designed to increase continuity in service when leave is taken by ranked personnel,” according to budget documents.

Other overtime costs, Blalock explained, are unavoidable when natural disasters or emergency situations take place.

An example, he said, was the large-scale rescue of 121 stranded hikers from Hanakapiai two weeks ago.

Costs from that rescue alone, according to a public records request filed by TGI, included $278.46 in overtime pay for KPD personnel, $2,175.81 in overtime pay for KPD employees and $1,106.41 in fuel costs for the county’s Air 1 helicopter.

Helicopter pilot and maintenance costs, according to county records, is part of the county’s contract with Airborne Aviation.

Fire department officials, Blalock said, regularly track monthly expenses to ensure that those costs are in line with their annual budget.

Random audits, he added, are also conducted sporadically on employee timesheets.   

“Fiscally, I think overall, we have done a really good job at managing the budget that is presented to us,” Blalock said.

Some of those overtime costs, DeSilva-Carveiro opined, can be cut by having people foot the bill for their rescue costs rather than passing those costs on to county taxpayers.  

“If they (those who get rescued) can’t understand the posted signs, then they shouldn’t be out there anyway,” DeSilva-Carveiro said. “So, if something happens where you’re going to get stuck wherever, then you should pay for the services that you got rendered to you.”

• Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.

The chart below reflects overtime costs accrued by all county departments over the last four years, beginning in 2011

FY2011    $5,525,381

FY2012    $5,249,529

FY2013    $5,442,755

Amount spent to date in FY2014     $1,812,907

Source: County of Kauai Department of Finance

We would like to work toward bringing overtime costs for KPD in line with state averages.

Bernard Carvalho Jr.

Mayor of Kauai

The chart below reflects the amount of overtime expenses accrued by all county departments during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Police:    $3,051,095

Fire:     $1,170,269

Public Works:     $699,911

Parks and Recreation:     $216,638

Transportation:     $100,414

Finance:     $79,256

County Clerk:     $69,713

Prosecuting Attorney:     $39,343

Planning:     $6,709

Civil Defense:     $4,921

Economic Development:     $2,120

Liquor Control:     $1,831

Personnel:     $282

Housing Agency:     $191

Mayor’s Office:     $60

Elderly Affairs:     $1

County Attorney:     $0

County Auditor:     $0

Source: County of Kauai Department of Finance


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