By Joselyn Olinares
The money spent on overtime expenditures is not “free money”, it comes from somewhere (or rather someone). Any guesses to who that someone is? — It’s you, the taxpayer.
Kauai taxpayers are on the hook for public employee overtime and benefits, which have shown a growth in spending in recent years.
In Hawaii, overtime is calculated into a public employee’s pension. If a public employee can spike their overtime, this also spikes their pension, and Police Departments have the most generous pension calculation formula.
This has led to overtime and pension spiking across Hawaii’s Police Departments, and Kauai is no exception.
In 2005, suspicion arose when the Kauai Police department had a $321,628 budget overrun. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Chief of Police commented saying, “This is not a blame game; this is a learning experience,” However this learning experience is taking a toll on taxpayers.
In 2011, the County of Kauai spent $5,774,743.07 on overtime alone. Kauai Police employees accounted for the bulk of overtime expenditures that year, at 35.39%.
Overtime costs on Kauai have averaged over $5 million since 2013. The Kauai Police Department accounted for about 56% of the total overtime expenses for the county of Kauai.
According to Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., president of the Grassroot Institute, “Overtime is a necessary option to serve the public good, and most government employees do not abuse it. Unfortunately, since overtime is still calculated into a public employee’s pension level, there is often an incentive to ‘game the system.’ This practice needs to be monitored and reformed.”
Dr. Akina continues, “Our new transparency website, OpenHawaii.org, is now available as a tool to help Kauai’s citizens hold their public departments accountable.”
Data on OpenHawaii.org shows Police Officers raking in the top ten highest overtime payouts for fiscal years 2011-2014 . The highest amount received for overtime by a single Police Officer was $59,590.65 in 2011; $60,037.55 in 2012, $79,874.27 in 2013; and finally $45,091.69 in 2014. This data shows that for the years 2011-2013, the highest amount of overtime paid out steadily increased and only in 2014 did it decrease.
For example, one officer on Kauai with a maximum base salary of $76,710 made more than $79,874 in overtime, and $64,511 in retirement and other pay, totalling to $221,095 for one fiscal year — all on taxpayer’s dime.
Officers on Kauai with high overtime payouts also received among the highest benefits for retirement and other pay.
Although police overtime may be needed in some cases, it’s hard to justify overtime numbers that are double the maximum base salary. This kind of overtime is not only unnecessary, but it’s also abusive to the taxpayers pockets, who pay even more when this is used to spike a public pension.
As said before, money is not free, someone has to pay it. Question is— have you, the taxpayer, had enough?
This article originally appeared in The Garden Island.