DEPARTMENT HEADS FIGHT FOR RESTORATION OF FUNDS: MAUI COUNCIL IN FINAL BUDGET DELIBERATIONS

May 15, 2009, 12:45 PM HST · Updated May 15, 5:05 PM
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More than a dozen people signed up to testify today on the county budget as the council resumes deliberations in the hopes of finalizing the document.

File Photo of Council Members in Chamber. By Wendy Osher.

File Photo of Council Members in Chamber. By Wendy Osher.

The council had trimmed $18 million from the budget earlier this month amid uncertainty over access to the county’s share of the transient accommodation tax (TAT).

Since then, a proposal to use the county funds to balance the state budget did not have enough support in the state legislature to advance this session.

That leaves the council with the option of restoring all funding, partial funding, or saving the money in anticipation potential further declines in revenue.

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Maui Managing Director Sheri Morrison, testified in support of restoring funds for two departments-the Management Information Systems Program (MIS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS) Division.  Morrison is asking for the restoration of $45,000 for the replacement of 30 personal computers at MIS to keep on pace with the department’s replacement schedule.  She also wants $46,000 restored for the GIS technician position.

Terryl Vencyl, Executive Director, Maui Visitors Bureau expressed concern over the H1N1 outbreak and its impact on tourism. According to Vencyl, the Mexican government has put $15 million on the table for marketing to draw back tourism as soon as the CDC lifts its travel advisory in that country.  Vencyl said the mindset prior to the flu was one of frugality.  She said the outbreak gives the consumer yet another reason to determine how and when they schedule a vacation.

Vencyl hopes to strengthen its arsenal in the marketing arena saying, “Our people are stepping up to the plate, we just need to stay out there with the message that this is a place to come, this is a place of value and the experience that they have here is not one that they will get anywhere else.”

In the public works department, Director Milton Arakawa testified requesting a restoration of funds for road resurfacing, base yard repairs and eliminated or reduced positions.  The request includes a restoration of funds for $41,040 for an Engineering Aide II Position, a post that Arakawa says completes a 3-person surveying crew and eliminates the need for the department to hire and outside consultant.  The request also calls for restoration of funds for a $34,000 a year labor position, $35,000 for road bridge and drainage maintenance in Makawao and millions of dollars in road resurfacing in all 8 districts of Maui County.

Lori Tsuhako, the Director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, was among the list of people who want the council to revisit the 2010 budget.  Tsuhako is requesting a reinstatement of funding for expansion positions and existing positions where funding was reduced including positions in affordable housing and administrative grant funding positions.  Another positions affected is the half time Nutrition Program position on Molokai.  Tsuhako says that without this position, the department would not be able to deliver meals to dozens of Molokai residents.

In the Parks Department, Director Tamara Horcajo is requesting a restoration of funding for the department’s park caretaker positions, $350,000 for countywide maintenance, and funding for a South Maui District Supervisor.  Horcajo said the part time care takers allow county operations to continue on the weekends and evenings without incurring overtime costs.  Without the South Maui District Supervisor position, Horcajo said the growing south Maui Community  is left with 2 full time positions for 2,500 kids.

The morning hearing will be followed by the regular meeting of the Maui County Council.

(By Wendy OSHER © 2009)

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