Cuts and consequences

LIHUE — As the county turns to deeper cuts in public safety, the Kauai Police Department is saying the resulting reduction in services would encourage crime. 

County Managing Director Nadine Nakamura and Ernest Barreira, county assist procurement officer and budget team leader, presented the mayor’s budget analysis and recommendations at the Kauai Police Commission meeting Friday. 

The mayor intends to spread $8.2 million in cuts across all departments, agencies and offices.

The two pointed out that between 2008 and 2011, collective bargaining led to annual pay increases of 5 percent for firefighters and 6 percent for police officers. At the same time, other county employees received no pay increases between July 2009 and June 2013, were furloughed for six months and had their health insurance co-payments increased from 40 to 50 percent.

“Fire and police collective bargain increases were significant during those periods of time,” Barreira said.

The KPD collective bargaining increases are $4.9 million for 2016 and $6.4 million in 2017. The mayor is proposing increases of $3.97 million and $2.4 million, respectively.

About 80 percent of a $14 million county operating fund increase is attributable to KPD ($4.9 million), KFD ($4.4 million), Public Works ($1.8 million), Transportation ($1.8 million), and Office of the Prosecuting Attorney ($1.6 million).

A budget shortfall is due in most part to a $30 million loss of anticipated Transient Accommodations Tax revenues between 2012-14, when they were capped by the Legislature.

“With the TAT in the budget, the revenue picture would be close to solvent and exceed revenue needs based on expenditures,” he added.

Nakamura said the mayor is developing a public-private community partnership initiative that would have groups helping with park maintenance, cultural stewardship, and possibly inmates from Kauai Community Correctional Center to clean and maintain access and easement areas to beaches and trails.

“There is a range of partnerships and government cannot do it alone,” she said.

KPD Assistant Chief Michael Contrades followed with the department’s proposed budget report. 

He said KPD faces expanding responsibilities, increased calls for service, increased crimes against property and person, and violent crime. Overtime reductions have resulted in $660,959.70 in savings, but it has also initiated a reduction in special enforcement projects.

Lost property reports are now handled over the phone and officers save report writing time by providing basic information for minor traffic collisions.

The cuts have consequences, he said. People wait longer for police reports.

“A reduction in special enforcement projects means that we are less proactive and more responsive,” he said, “which could lead to an increase in time.”

With all of the efforts put forth over the last three years, KPD is at the point of not being able to reduce its budget anymore, he said. The only way left to meet the mandate is to cut eight officer positions, which could mean losing federal consideration of funding for an additional six grant-funded officer positions.

The mayor is proposing general funds to replace declining federal grants. This would include the federal grant of $614,850 to hire officers.

Contrades presented a worst case scenario, which is not proposed but could result if further cuts were made. This includes requiring nonprofits to hire their own officers for events, reassigning the school resource officers — as they are state-run facilities, and to stop responding to minor traffic collisions, crimes on state lands, Hawaiian Home Lands, and require residents to report property crimes and civil matters online.

To cut response and reporting services would save money initially, but could contribute to rising crime rates and disrupt the positive reputation of the island with the tourism industry, he said.

KPD would need to add an additional 44 officers to match national standards, which should be higher for Kauai as an island community without support from neighboring law enforcement, he said.

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