City budget includes cuts
for police and firefighters

Chief Donohue says HPD was
just starting to boost recruitment

By Crystal Kua

City Budget Director Ivan Lui-Kwan found himself yesterday having to defend the administration's position that public safety is a priority while dozens of positions were cut from the proposed budgets for the Police and Fire departments.

"So much for priorities," City Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

The discussion led to an exchange between Kobayashi and Lui-Kwan over whether raising taxes would be needed to generate more revenue to provide for more city services.

"Clearly as I've been saying throughout these budget hearings that everybody is suffering, every single department in the city has indicated that they want more resources," Lui-Kwan said.

But even though there is a cry for more resources, "we understand and we hear what you folks are telling us, which is not to raise taxes," Lui-Kwan said.

Kobayashi replied: "You can't keep throwing that back at us. We talked about raising taxes last year to meet expenses, and we were assured by the administration that there is sufficient money to cover the future cost of the city," she said.

"We were shot down because it was 2002 and we were told there is enough money, that the city is in fine shape. So don't throw that back at us."

This morning, Kobayashi's committee will be hearing Mayor Jeremy Harris' proposals for fee and property tax increases.

Council members were not happy yesterday when they heard during budget hearings for the public safety agencies that uniformed positions were being cut from police and fire budgets and that eight civilians might be laid off.

They said they were previously told by the administration that sworn positions would be spared in the mayor's $1.1 billion operating budget.

Lui-Kwan said, however, that he has previously said "nearly all" of the vacant uniformed positions would be saved.

"What I did say is that ... yes, it is a priority and nearly all were preserved, but not all were preserved," he said.

Overall, the Police and Fire departments' budgets for next year are about $2 million each less than the current fiscal year, but that came after millions of dollars more in cuts.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes the following cuts:

>> 41 vacant police officer positions.

>> 76 vacant civilian Police Department positions, including radio dispatchers.

>> 16 new police officer positions to create beats in Mililani Mauka and around Pearlridge Center.

>> Eight civilian positions that were recently filled. If funding is not restored, they could be laid off in July.

>> 44 vacant and new firefighter positions, including 15 positions for a new ladder company in Mililani Mauka.

The budget cuts were enough of a concern to the police and fire chiefs that they asked the Council to restore some of them.

Police Chief Lee Donohue said he disagrees with the budget proposed by the city administration. The department was just beginning to make strides in trying to recruit and retain police officers to deal with a shortage in officers, and the cuts won't help, he said. "Naturally, it's going to put us in a bind, and we'd have to cut back on services."

But Donohue also said the cuts will not jeopardize public safety.

"We would come to you before we would do that," he told Council members.

Lui-Kwan said, however, the administration has tried to meet the needs of both departments, pointing out that the Police Department has $12 million in vacant positions.

City & County of Honolulu
Honolulu Police Department
Honolulu Fire Department

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