July 12, 2018
Hagåtña – On Oct. 1, 2018, unless the sales tax remains in place or a funding source is found to fill the near $160 million revenue gap, everything changes.
The revenue gap created by the Federal Tax Cuts should not effect Fiscal Year 2019, which begins in October. But we are again on the precipice of a crisis because 11 senators decided to repeal the sales tax without providing an alternate funding source. Their actions threaten the funding levels for the next fiscal year, which created a third option for budget levels for all agencies.
In an “Option 3” world, the island’s police department would have one less precinct in order to consolidate costs for utilities, the Records and ID Section (which provides police clearances for job seekers) will be unable to pay for rent, and the police communications network will also suffer as a result of contract disruptions.
Don’t take our word for it – Speaker BJ Cruz has pleaded with his colleagues in open session warning them that the financial shortfall caused by the Federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is very, very real.
“This could severely impact the department’s ability to function,” Chief JI Cruz stated. “Preventive patrols would no longer be conducted, and we would have to resort to a ‘reactive’ response, as calls for police services would have to be prioritized to maximize existing resources. This situation would result in longer response times by officers.”
The hardest hit to the department, however, wouldn’t be the change in the Records and ID Section, or the consolidation of precincts to reduce utilities – the hardest hit would be the continuous furlough of 24 sworn officers and the furlough (32-hour work week) for 279 sworn officers.
That’s a reduction from the current force size of 303 sworn police officers to 279 active officers only working 32-hour work weeks.
With a reduced police force, the department will have to change the way it manages available personnel. Police visibility will be heavily reduced with fewer police officers patrolling our streets. This will also mean a delay in response times from patrol officers as calls will now need to be prioritized on a case by case basis; case closures and case management would require the same type of prioritization.
The Governor, Speaker Cruz, Public Auditor Brooks, financial experts agreed that there should be some revenue solution to fill the gap created by the federal tax cuts — with the understanding that cuts also have to be made.
Even armed with this information, Senators Tom Ada, Frank Aguon Jr., Dennis Rodriguez Jr., Telena Nelson, Regine Biscoe Lee, Joe S. San Agustin, Therese Terlaje and the bill’s author, Michael San Nicolas, Republican Sens. James Espaldon, Mary Torres and Fernando Esteves repealed the sales tax — which also stripped away $40 million for the Guam Memorial Hospital and the Department of Education. And they didn’t put forth a revenue source to address the shortfall.
July 12, 2018