WAILUKU - A Maui County Council committee advanced two resolutions Thursday to approve $31.2 million in pay raises and other benefits over four years for more than 300 Maui County police officers after a contract arbitration award last month.
The council's Budget and Finance Committee unanimously recommended approval of the cost-item resolutions, which advance to the full council.
Maui County and the state's three other counties must pay what an arbitration panel decided in early July for base pay and other benefits for members of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers as well as some excluded bargain unit employees.
Earlier this week, Budget Director Sandy Baz said that the county has budgeted enough to cover the added expense, but in subsequent years the county may need to look at reducing its costs or increasing revenue.
The award will affect 331 Maui Police Department employees in the SHOPO union as well as 16 employees who are excluded from the bargaining unit. Those excluded include officers ranked as captain and above and some excluded lieutenants and others in places such as internal affairs and plans and training, county officials said. The award does not affect the police chief and his deputy.
Employees have been working without an updated contract since July 1, 2011. The arbitrated award covers the six years from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2017. There was no pay increase for the first two years of the contract, but there are across-the-board pay hikes in subsequent years. Other benefits are increased in the new contract.
Maui SHOPO Chapter Chairman Sgt. Michael Bates gave testimony and shared statistics to "justify" the pay increases.
Last year in Maui County, police responded to 128,014 calls for service, Bates said. He compared that to 14,675 calls for the Fire Department and 17,270 for medical responders. In 2011, Maui police received 127,322 calls for service, while fire had 13,990 calls and paramedics received 16,410 calls.
"We are not only police officers; we are first-line responders," Bates said.
Council Member Mike Victorino asked Bates for a copy of his information to have on hand and to show members of the public.
In response to union testifiers, Victorino said he knows many officers and their families and knows of the issues, especially emotional issues, that officers deal with from their jobs.
Other union leaders spoke about how officers put their lives on the line and have to make split-second decisions on whether to fire their weapons. Leaders also said that with better pay and benefits, it is easier to attract new employees as well as retain current ones.
Union officials said Maui County is the last county to visit the arbitration award issue. The union has received support from the other counties, officials said.
Costs to the county in the arbitration award include base pay increases for officers, higher "standard of conduct" differential pay for their work while off-duty, a hike in the officers' gun allowance and additional costs for health benefits, Baz had said previously.
The overall additional costs per fiscal year, when compared to last fiscal year, break down as follows (The numbers include both the bargaining and non-bargaining employees costs.):
* $2.9 million for fiscal 2014, from July 1 to June 30, 2014.
* $8.4 million for fiscal 2015, from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.
* $8.5 million for fiscal 2016, from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.
* $11.4 million for fiscal 2017, from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.