Budget problems arise with patrols merger

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by Chris Nagus and John O'Sullivan

KMOV.com

Posted on November 17, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 17 at 11:21 PM

(KMOV) -- It was touted as a big money saver for taxpayers - the merging of the Missouri Highway and Water patrols, but the State Auditor says not so fast.

It turns out one very big overlooked detail is going to cost taxpayers close to $1 million more per year.
 
State Auditor Tom Schweich told News 4 “Financially speaking we see problems with it."
The Auditor's office revealed it was going to cost taxpayers more money to merge the two agencies. But that's not how the merger was sold.
 
In Governor Jay Nixon's 2011 State of the State Address on January 19th he stated “by merging the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol we've kept the same number of troopers on our roads and waterways with less bureaucracy .... Savings to taxpayers $3 million."
 
The Governor was right, the merger cut some fat, but he didn't mention the unintended ongoing financial drain. 

That happened when Water Patrol employees floated over to the Highway Patrol retirement system.

"It's a more generous system, employees pay in less and get more" said Schweich.
The Auditor says the merger saved $900,000 by reducing staff and leases, but added $1.8
million in costs to the health and retirement system.
That means it's going to cost taxpayers an extra $900,000 a year. 
The audit also revealed wasted resources. 
Schweich told News 4 "when auditors started doing the audit someone said you probably want to see the warehouse, the warehouse had 250 thousand dollars worth of boats. 28 of them sitting their wasting away."
 
The Patrol sent over an email saying they have since identified 20 boats that aren't needed.
Schweich says you wouldn't see this in the private sector.
"When you have a motive for profit like you do in the private sector you aren't going to keep 250 thousand dollars worth of boats sitting there."
 
In a statement, the Patrol still says the merger benefits Missouri, saying it provides a more agile and cost effective way to patrol roads and waterways and cited the Joplin tornado and last winter’s blizzards as two examples. 
 
It's not uncommon for the auditor to uncover fraud or theft.
In this case, Schweich's office discovered a water patrol clerk stole $3,000 worth of boater education fees - that individual is now charged with felony stealing as a result of this audit.

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