LIHU‘E — Due to cuts in state funding last fiscal year, lifeguards at Ke‘e Beach were eliminated.
But those four full-time and one part-time Kaua‘i Fire Department Ocean Safety Bureau officers were sustained with federal funds.
That’s not the case this year, and the positions are not currently budgeted for fiscal-year 2022, which begins in July.
The county was recently tasked with balancing core services and operations with a tighter belt, and proposed a $243-million operating budget and $24.3-million capital improvement projects budget, with no position layoffs.
On the other hand, there were 13 positions that have been cut to dollar funding, and 32 that were short-funded for half-year contracts.
At KFD, there are currently 12 vacant positions, some due to recent retirements, others that have been open.
“Due to the current vacancies, we are operating at a maximum of 40 personnel per platoon, leading to challenges in maintaining minimum safe-staffing levels,” KFD Chief Steven Goble told the Fire Commission.
In proposing next year’s budget, the department cut $95,992. Overall, the department is proposing a $35,818,509 budget, down 0.4% from last fiscal year.
“Through budget-prioritization, the department was asked to make non-personnel, operation-costs adjustments by reducing year-over-year costs in the amount of $95,916,” Goble reported to the Fire Commission this month.
Rank-for-rank overtime within the budget is short-funded at $632,285, Goble told the commission. Historical utilization of 85% places that at a projected $992,144 for those who qualify for the benefit. At 100%, that’s $1.16 million.
Big-ticket items for the department include $110,000 for the purchasing of one aviation radio at $50,000, five portable radios at $41,000 and three mobile radio units at $19,000. The department is in the process of replacing its portable and mobile radios. These new items may potentially be covered by a federal grant.
The department is also seeking funds for a brush truck and outboard motors to help patrol the Westside.
From the county’s CIP budget, the department is moving toward constructing a $700,000 helicopter hanger and making much-needed, fire-station improvements.
However, to save funds, several items were deferred, like a lifeguard tower at ‘Anini Beach Park, mattresses at the fire stations that are more than 12 years old, a backup generator at the Lihu‘e station and replacement of three kitchen stoves.
The department is deferring vehicle replacements in the next fiscal year, but has identified 10 that have either passed projected service life or will hit it in the coming year.
Kaua‘i Police Department
In its proposed budget, the KPD requested $40,201,353, a 1% decrease from last fiscal year. Most of the cuts come from operations, including travel and training costs.
KPD had 14 civilians working on the budget, KPD Assistant Chief Bryan Ponce told the Police Commission last week.
“As expected, due to the economic uncertainties of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, fiscal tightening and careful consideration of all aspects of KPD was taken into consideration,” Ponce said.
The department submitted a flat budget, with four, short-term, dollar-funded vacant positions, cutting about $78,577 from the budget.
“But there is still the commitment by county administration to allow us to move forward with filling vacancies,” Ponce said. “The goal is to be able to fill the vacancies and continue because we know with retirement and with attrition of officers, vacancies will always be there.
KPD is authorized to have 162 sworn positions, with current staffing at 144. Of that, the department has 72 patrol officers for 78 authorized spots. This means KPD is currently operating on less than two full-time sworn officers per 1,000 residents.
A 2020 analysis of the department offered a short-term goal of increasing patrol staffing to 89 positions, up 11 officers and at least one sergeant. A medium- and long-term goal would be to set patrol staffing at 97 officers for a 45% proactivity time.
The department began training eight new recruits in January, and is selecting candidates for its next class in July.
Both KPD and KFD are scheduled to come before the County Council on Monday, April 5, for the first round of departmental budget reviews.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.