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Cutbacks cripple many government functions

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:07 p.m. HST, Apr 17, 2011


A range of government services has been severely cut in recent years, from operating hours at public swimming pools, satellite city halls and license bureaus to fewer inspectors for everything from restaurants to vector control. A backlog in the processing of applications, permits and other paperwork has resulted in an increase in complaints. Here’s a look at some of the cuts:

 

STATE

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION / BOARD OF EDUCATION

>> Closed Wailupe Valley Elementary in East Honolulu and the one-room schoolhouse at Keanae, Maui. Liliuokalani Elementary in Kaimuki will also close at the end of the school year.

>> Closed all public schools for 17 furlough days in fiscal year 2009-2010, giving Hawaii the fewest instructional days in the nation.

>> Eliminated the equivalent of 405 full-time positions.

>> Reduced funds for part-time temporary teachers, tutors, athletic coaches, classroom cleaners and substitute teachers.

>> Reduced funds for textbooks, equipment and other operating expenses.

>> Increased one-way bus fares to 75 cents from 35 cents. Eliminated bus service for high school students who live on city bus routes on Oahu. Eliminated and consolidated other bus routes.

>> In January, increased the price of regular school breakfast to $1 from 95 cents; second and subsequent student breakfasts to $2 from $1.90; adult breakfast to $2 from $1.90; regular student lunch to $2.35 from $2.20; second student entrees to $1.85 from $1.75; second student lunches to $4.70 from $4.40; adult lunch to $4.70 from $4.40.

>> Raised After School Plus Program (A+) fees to $80 for the first child per month from $55.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

>> Sanitation branch down to 10 inspectors responsible for 6,000 restaurants on Oahu, for a ratio of 600 restaurants to 1 inspector. Federal guidelines call for a ratio of 150 to 1.

>> State Laboratory unable to maintain staffing for five 12-hour days to respond to infectious disease outbreaks, such as H1N1, drawing criticism in a nationwide report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

>> State Laboratory eliminated food safety testing for microbial agents and routine testing for contaminated food.

>> State Laboratory severely cut back on testing for tuberculosis. Hawaii has the highest rate of TB in the United States.

>> Vital Statistics office lost one third of its 30-person staff, resulting in delays for the 1,500 daily requests for marriage, birth and death certificates. Office now also has to develop procedures and forms for recording new civil unions.

>> Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office no longer has staff to be on call every day around the clock to respond to toxic releases, spills and gas leaks on land or at sea.

>> Reduced water quality monitoring.

>> Position of recycling coordinator is unfilled and remains frozen.

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

>> Lost 365 positions due to layoffs. “At the very time Hawaii residents are in need of vital services, they face delays which effectively result in the denial of services,” DHS Director Patricia McManaman told legislators. “Currently, 1,500 disabled persons are waitlisted for vocational rehabilitation services. The growing waitlist is directly attributable to the RIF (reduction in force), loss of hours due to the furlough, and the inability to fill vacant positions. … It is projected that the increase in disability workloads will accelerate as baby boomers continue to reach their most disability-prone years.”

>> Adult Protective Services’ caseload increased 69 percent in FY 2010 when it was mandated to provide services to all “vulnerable adults,” rather than just “dependent adults.” A total of 1,065 abuse reports were investigated in FY 2010, compared with 630 in FY 2009. The previous response time to a report of abuse was 24 to 48 hours. The current response time is three to five days. Staff cannot provide short-term case management or conduct follow-ups with victims to ensure their continued safety. Re-abuse rate of 4.1 percent in FY 2009 jumped to 8.2 percent in FY 2010. “The increase in the re-abuse rate is directly attributed to the lack of staff and the inability of DHS to provide case management and client monitoring to ensure safety after the initial crisis event,” McManaman said.

>> Child Protective Services lost 112 positions — or 20 percent of its work force — and 19 more positions went unfilled. Response times to reports of abuse have increased and it is now more difficult for caseworkers to provide services to children and families in their homes. “The inability of CPS to respond timely to reports of abuse and neglect jeopardizes the safety of children and also jeopardizes CPS’ ability to comply with state and federal mandates and best practices,” McManaman said.

>> Med-QUEST Division has seen an increase in the number of medical assistance recipients from 211,000 in 2008 to 267,000 in December 2010. Med-QUEST staffing lost 50 percent of its 277 employees due to layoffs and elimination of positions.

>> Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division lost 240 positions — or 30 percent of its work force — while demands for food stamps, financial assistance and other services were “rapidly rising.”

>> Demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, grew from 109,268 people in FY 2009 to 147,250 in September 2010 — a 35 percent increase. Applications also increased 57 percent, jeopardizing the program’s ability to meet federal guidelines and putting the program at risk for financial penalties.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

>> Eliminated 61 positions in fiscal year 2010.

>> Demand for services from unemployed workers rose from 72,929 in 2009 to 74,336 in 2010.

>> Initial unemployment claims rose from 141,427 in 2009 to 158,415 in 2010.

DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION

>> Between fiscal year 2008 and 2011 lost 43.5 permanent positions for an 11 percent loss. Effect: Delays in responding to taxpayers and their representatives who are under audit and/or collection action, delays in settlements, offers in compromise, voluntary disclosures, Board of Review hearings and cases pending litigation in the courts and the loss of flexibility to respond to taxpayer needs. The Tax Services and Processing Division experienced delays in the overall processing speeds of tax returns and payments, increased wait time for walk-in taxpayers, correspondence and the call center and a sharp decrease in the call answer rate from 80 percent in FY 09 to 61 percent in FY 10.

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

>> Eliminated about 370 lecturer positions. Reduced temporary staff.

>> Increased class sizes.

>> Canceled several hundred smaller classes.

>> Consolidated: Academy for Creative Media into the College of Arts & Humanities; Industrial Relations Center into Library Services; Population Studies into the Office of Public Health; Enrollment management into the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students; the Conference Center into Auxiliary Enterprises; The Office of Environmental Health and Safety under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

>> Eliminated campus Duplicating Services office.

>> Combined separate midyear commencement ceremonies for undergraduate and advanced degree recipients into a single ceremony.

>> Eliminated: Bachelor of Music in Guitar; Bachelor of Arts in Musicology; Masters of Arts in Religion of Hawaii/Pacific; Master of Arts - Theatre; School of Social Sciences — Undergraduate Certificate, Human Resources & Organizational Management; School of Nursing — Phase-out of Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science pathway; College of Education — phased out Masters in Curriculum Studies, health and physical education; REMOTE (Regional Education Masters Online Training in Evaluation) program; TIES (Technology Intensive Enhancement Series) and TAP (Technology Activators Project).

>> Closed Shidler College of Business student computer labs on evenings and weekends.

>> Eliminated Institute of Astronomy’s visitor program.

>> Discontinued KOKUA Student Affairs services for students with temporary disabilities.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

>> Incoming goods to Ho­no­lulu Airport used to be inspected until midnight. As of January, any goods requiring inspection after 4:30 p.m. must be delayed until the next working day, affecting freshness of imported produce.

>> At Honolulu Airport, the number of inspectors looking for invasive species dropped to 11 working from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. from 20 inspectors working from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. in October 2010.  Beginning in January, there were only five to seven inspectors working from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. As a result, the number of invasive species intercepted at all Hawaii airports dropped from 153 in December 2009 to 36 in December 2010.

>> The number of people working to control pests such as coqui frogs dropped from 28 in February 2007 to 18 in February 2010.

>> Eliminated position overseeing egg and feed activities aimed at protecting consumers, producers and distributors against mislabeled and fraudulent practices. The loss of the position “could lead to possible fraudulent practices of seeing cheaper imported eggs labeled as locally produced,” according to the department.

>> No one left to inspect nongenetically modified papayas heading to Japan from East Hawaii.

>> Coffee certification inspections in West Hawaii increased turnaround time to three weeks.

>> No enforcement of retail fruit, vegetable and egg inspections on Oahu.

>> No inspections of fruits and vegetables sold to military commissaries.

OAHU

CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU

>> Satellite City Halls closed on furlough days, affecting driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, camping and building permits.

>> Six trash convenience centers for household rubbish closed on furlough days.

>> Neal Blaisdell Center box office closed two Mondays of each month.

HONOLULU EMERGENCY SERVICES DEPARTMENT

>> Shortened its Junior Paramedic program this year from several weeks to one week and reduced the number of locations for its Junior Lifeguard program.  

HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT

>> Reducing its DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program from 120 schools to 41 schools. The JPO (Junior Police Officer) and PAL (Police Activity League) programs may also be scaled back.






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