In a time of tight budgets, a new Hawaii police union contract will cost the City and County of Honolulu an additional $200 million over the next four years, according to a memo Mayor Kirk Caldwell sent to the city council earlier this week.
As part of a recent arbitration award for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), $121 million will go toward increased wages for Honolulu cops, and another $43 million for an hourly “standards of conduct differential.”
The city will also pay an additional $35 million into the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund from Fiscal Year 2014-2016.
While saying he supports paying police officers “competitive” salaries, Kirk Caldwell expressed surprise in a statement released last week that “the wage increases set by the arbitration panel are far more than we anticipated.”
The increased costs, which emerged after that panel issued a binding arbitration award on July 3, reinforce pressure on the city to find additional revenue sources to help pay Honolulu’s nearly 2,000 officers.
In Fiscal Year 2014 alone, the city now expects to spend more than $50 million on salary increases for its public workers. The Caldwell administration initially estimated the cost would be just $20 million to pay for these new expenses.
Taken as a whole this leaves the city and its officials in a fiscal bind. The Honolulu City Council has been reluctant to raise taxes, having recently killed Caldwell’s proposal to increase the gas tax by a nickel per gallon.
But that defeat hasn’t stopped the mayor from pushing for more revenue-generating measures.
If that doesn’t sound like much, it does amount to progress because it suggests that officials might be amenable to raising new revenues. By contrast, Caldwell’s gas tax died without so much as a hearing.