Budget cuts may trim Missouri Water Patrol

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

A proposal to cut the state budget could cost the Missouri Water Patrol a total of 11 officers, leaving enforcement efforts on some waterways short-handed.

If the proposal is approved by the governor as part of a package to balance the state’s declining revenue with expenses, Lake of the Ozarks will lose two patrol officers.

That would leave the Water Patrol with 20 officers, including the captain, assigned to the lake.

Statewide, the Water Patrol stands to lose seven existing officers along with four positions that have not been filled due to retirements and resignations.  

The cuts were included in a list of recommendations submitted by the Missouri Department of Public Safety to Gov. Jay Nixon. The proposed cuts were in response to a request made by Nixon to all state department heads to come up with a list of programs, services and personnel that could be eliminated to save money.

Those recommendations will be reviewed by the state budget director, who will work with the governor to determine which ones will be implemented. Those decisions should take place over the course of the next several weeks. according to a statement from Nixon’s office on Thursday.

Any discussion of cuts to public safety is a bad idea, according on a lake area state legislator who says he intends to voice his opposition to the proposal.

While it is inevitable that the state is going to have to make budget adjustments, state Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, says public safety is not the place to do it.

Schad said the state’s current budget was approved based on anticipated revenue for FY 2009-2010. Revenues are already off 5 to 6 percent with little likelihood that the state will be able to recover the lost revenue.

“Naturally the governor is in a position where he finds it necessary to make cuts and adjustments to correct that shortfall, and rightfully so, but  it needs to come from somewhere else, not public safety,” Schad said. “I am doing everything I can to see if this is set in stone. This just isn’t the place to do it. In the end, it’s entirely up to the governor to decide what gets cut.”

There were no recommendations to cut any of the 1,000-plus highway patrol troopers.

DPS media coordinator Mike O’Connell said that’s because DPS receives federal highway funds for troopers.

“We have greater flexibility because of the highway funds, it’s just the way that particular agency works,” O’connell said.

The Water Patrol also receives federal funds for equipment and other budget items.

The Water Patrol has less than 100 officers statewide to patrol more approximately 8,322 miles of shoreline around the state including lakes, streams and rivers.

Lake Sun Leader