Debbie Hecht on Vacant County Positions

Commentary by Debbie Hecht:

In the February 27, 2009 letter (see attached) from Mayor Kenoi to the Hawaii County Council, which introduced the budget, he states:  “I imposed a temporary hiring suspension at the beginning of my administration and we are currently holding 481 positions vacant. This budget eliminates funding for 42 of those positions. ”

In the 2009-2010 budget, 55 positions were cut- for a total of 384 funded but unfilled positions.

In the 2010-2011 budget 70 more funded but unfilled jobs in the budget. There are still  314 funded but unfilled jobs. At a conservative estimate of $40,000 per job (not including benefits) this is still $12,560,000. in the budget.

From the Mayor’s letter to council on the 2010-2011 budget click here to read the entire letter

(each paragraph is from a different part of the letter, listed here in order of appearance):

“This year (meaning during the last budget cycle) we unfunded 55 vacant positions, which was the largest number of positions ever to be unfunded in a single County budget. In our new FY 2010-11 budget, we propose unfunding even more — an additional 70 positions. That’s an unprecedented total of 125 positions unfunded in the first two years of this administration.


After unfunding 55 positions in the fiscal year 2009-2010 budget, we have continued to review funded vacant positions to determine those that can be safely unfunded or partially funded for the upcoming budget year without adversely impacting County operations and services to the public beyond an acceptable level.  This budget reflects the unfunding of 70 additional positions and partial funding of 43 more positions in fiscal year 2010-2011. Partial funding represents a reduction in the salary budget for a position that may be vacant for a portion of the year. The total value of the unfunded positions, adjusted for furloughs, amounts to $2,770,356. *

The review process involved identifying funded vacant positions that were public safety, grant funded, and special revenue fund positions, as well as positions in the legislative branch.  In addition to the importance of retaining funding for public safety purposes, it was recognized that most vacant positions in the Police and Fire departments are offset by new recruits, which are not separately funded. **  Positions that are funded by grants or special revenue funds do not impact the general fund budget.  The remaining funded vacant positions were carefully reviewed individually.

Normally, funds not expended because a position is temporarily vacant are used to cover the cost of vacation payouts for retirees*** and for the temporary assignment or overtime pay that may result from covering the vacant position until it can be filled.  The savings resulting from unfunding additional general fund positions after the March 1, 2010 budget submittal have been placed in the general fund provision for cash-in-lieu of vacation account****.

Vacant Positions – We originally proposed in March to unfund 62 vacant positions, excluding the bands. This amended budget proposal includes a total of 70 positions that have been unfunded. All remaining funded positions are considered to be essential to County operations, or they have an existing incumbent temporarily assigned to a worker compensation position or in some other temporary appointment.”


*   How does this work?

**  Where does the money come from for new recruits?

***  people retired from the county get vacations benefits?  Paid vacations?

**** What is a cash-in-lieu of vacation account?

One Response

  1. I’ve heard of these vacant positions for years,
    year I have never seen that many job listings on the
    County website or at the County Job office.

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