Friday, July 30, 1999

Military calls off COLA cut for isles

Members faced just 3 weeks
to prepare for allowance cuts
of up to $94 per check

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Hawaii's 45,000 uniformed personnel received welcome news today -- a planned 25 percent reduction in their cost-of-living allowance that was to take effect Sunday has been rescinded.

The reprieve was welcomed by Army Sgt. Saudi Plowdeniz, 33, who had planned to seek a second job as a night security guard to cope with Hawaii's high cost of living.

"The COLA helps me out a lot since it's not cheap living in Hawaii," said Plowdeniz, who has been drawing more than $200 a month since arriving at Schofield Barracks four years ago.


The Pacific Command will host a town meeting on COLA Aug. 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Hickam Air Force Base theater.

Plowdeniz said his wife, Valerie, works part-time as a teacher at the post's youth center, and the family doesn't do all its shopping at military commissaries or post exchanges.

"I always check out the sales and go through the paper to see where the better prices are," he said. "I know at times I can get better prices at Sam's Club, but you have to buy in bulk."

The Pentagon's decision was based on a request submitted by Adm. Dennis Blair, Pacific Forces commander, on behalf of the major military commands in the islands. It was sent to the Pentagon on Monday.

The cut in allotment, which is meant to offset the cost of living in areas outside of the continental United States, like Hawaii and Alaska, is not part of a service member's base pay. It is based on a service member's rank, length of service, marital status and number of dependents.

Island service members were told only last week to be prepared for smaller paychecks at the next pay cycle on Aug. 13.

However, Capt. T. McCreary, Pacific Command spokesman, said Blair and other military commanders here asked the Department of Defense to hold off on the planned COLA reductions until another review can be completed.

"This will be a good boost to morale here," McCreary said.

He said he didn't know how long the Pentagon review will take.

The military noted that an Army sergeant with six years of service and two family members currently receives $245.33 in COLA per month. That amount would have been reduced to $184 -- a $61.33 cut.

For military officers, an Air Force captain who has been in the service for eight years and has two dependents would have seen his allotment drop by $93.66 next month. The officer's COLA currently amounts to $374.66.

The allotments are based on two surveys of military personnel and price comparisons for about 160 goods and services.

The goods and services include basic foods such as milk, cereal, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, canned goods and soda, and gas prices, car insurance, entertainment, washers and dryers.

This price data is then compared with information from mainland outlets.

The retail price survey is conducted every March, while the living pattern information is collected every three years. The next living pattern survey will be done in January.

The latest Oahu military cost-of-living index was lowered because of lower commissary prices for milk, flour, pasta, cereal and soda when compared to those at mainland military markets.

The change in the military COLA, however, did not affect the cost-of-living allowance now received by 13,382 federal white-collar workers in Hawaii.

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