The State Auditor’s Office says merging the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol was supposed to save the state $3 million dollars a year, but instead is costing the state almost a million more.
The first of this year, the State Highway Patrol absorbed the Water Patrol. Auditor Tom Schweich’s office says though the state will save some money from cutting support staff, not filling vacancies and terminating a lease, the merger is costing the state almost $2 million a year more in retirement and healthcare costs.
Deputy Auditor Harry Otto says the state will save some money from cutting support staff, not filling vacancies and terminating a lease, the merger will cost the state nearly $1.8 million more in increased retirement and health care costs each year. Also, the savings estimates claimed the state would save $2.4 million by reassigning water patrol officers, but the state will still have to pay these officers; it will just pay the $2.4 million using other state funds.
To view the complete audit report, visit www.auditor.mo.gov/press/2011-60.htm.
Colonel Ron Replogle, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, says in response to the audit that “At a time when other state highway patrols have faced significant financial pressure, Missouri has benefited from the combined efforts of the Water Patrol and the Highway Patrol. As a result, there are more troopers available to respond both to our roadways and waterways.”
“The merger of the Highway and Water patrols was designed to provide Missourians with a seamless, fluid patrol force-an efficient, fully integrated team, from the state’s highways and roadways to its lakes and rivers. In just six months it has already exceeded our expectations in the capabilities demonstrated in response to large scale emergencies and natural disasters.”
However, Otto says the Auditor’s Office doesn’t feel that’s a response to the problem at hand, which is a major cost over-run. He says now there’s really no turning back, but the staff is recommending that any other agency mergers in the future first go through a strategic process of working out all of the numbers with all departments that have a vested interest.
Replogle says in a statement, “Many of the long-term cost savings predicted from the merger have already occurred. Redundant administrative staff reductions have resulted in cost savings of approximately $403,000. Elimination of the Water Patrol headquarters facility has resulted in savings of about $250,000. Through attrition, redundant Water Patrol command staff positions have already reduced costs by about $250,000.”
Otto says those savings are a good thing, but the retirement and healthcare costs are still pushing the total cost way over what it was before the merger.