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Last big contract: Raises coming to police officers

November 17, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Hawaii police officers are getting raises, the last large bargaining group to have salaries settled for this year as the county begins crafting a new budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018.

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) contract includes a 2 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2017, followed by a 2.25 percent increase next year, then 2 percent raises each year for the following two years. Bonuses and firearm allowance increases round out the package.

It will cost the county an extra $19.9 million over the four years of the contract. There are 419 police employees currently covered by the contract.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe forwarded a resolution Thursday seeking County Council agreement to pay for the raises. The issue should come up for council vote at its Dec. 6 meeting.

Okabe, who’s been the county point man on union negotiations this year, said Hawaii County officials are meeting in Honolulu next week with fellow county and state employers to review implementation of the union contracts and determine impacts on state and local governments.

“We want to make sure it’s fair, that it looks out for the interest of the county and also the employees,” Okabe said.

Each 1 percent salary increase for all of the unions that were up this year for new contracts adds $2.5 million to $3 million annually to the budget, Finance Director Deanna Sako said. Employee salaries and benefits account for at least 65 percent of the county budget.

The county administration has begun the first phase of budgeting for the next fiscal year. Departments have been tasked with producing draft budgets with no increases and with 3 percent reductions, Sako said.

Mayor Harry Kim and the County Council earlier this year raised property taxes to fund a $491 million budget, a 6 percent increase over the prior year. The mayor and council also raised gas taxes to pay for roads and mass transit.

The police raises negotiated with SHOPO follow similar raises by other bargaining groups. Each county mayor gets one seat at the table and the governor gets four, during collective bargaining.

County firefighters earlier this year were awarded an increase of 2 percent this year, 2.25 percent next year and a step increase over the two years of the contract. The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association contract adds $3.8 million over two years to the county budget.

Most units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest union, are receiving the equivalent of 6 percent to 7 percent raises over their two-year contract, at a cost to the county of $8 million.

Considering step increases and other factors, the HGEA contract is similar to its counterparts in other bargaining groups, Okabe said.

A contract for United Public Workers employees includes a $1,000 bonus for members, followed by a 3.2 percent raise, and then another $1,000 bonus next year. In May 2019, members will receive a 3.45 percent raise, and will then receive another 2 percent increase in July 2019.

The contract will cost Hawaii County $11.7 million over four years.

One HGEA unit, state and county ocean safety officers, has not yet been settled. While the unit will have an impact on the county budget, it won’t be a large one like the other, bigger union groups, Sako said.

“The SHOPO is a big one for us,” Sako said about waiting for the last contracts to come in before really digging into the budget-balancing work.

A message left with the SHOPO administrative office was not returned by press time Thursday.

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