Maui News

MAUI COUNCIL PASSES 2010 BUDGET UNANIMOUSLY ON 2ND & FINAL READING

May 28, 2009, 11:22 AM HST
* Updated May 28, 1:52 PM
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The Maui County Council unanimously passed the FY2010 budget on second and final reading this morning.  The budget is $8.8 million less than the Mayor’s $573 million proposal, which translates to a 1.5% difference.

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla discusses the impact of the TAT on the county budget during a public hearing in Lahaina.  File photo by Wendy Osher.

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla discusses the impact of the TAT on the county budget during a public hearing in Lahaina. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Budget Chair Joe Pontanilla described the budget as austere and tight for both county departments and nonprofits, but also noted the flexibility presented by the program budget.

“In a program budget, the departments have the option of using funds from vacancies to fund operational needs, including filling vacant positions in situations where the Council reduced the funding,” said Pontanilla.

With $12.5 million in vacancies throughout the county, and additional funding in fringe benefits, Pontanilla said the county already has $21 million in funds appropriated within departments for vacant positions.  Pontanilla noted that the council is not deleting any of the current equivalent personnel, but rather reducing funding for vacant positions.

With amendments already hammered out during first reading two weeks ago, the budget passed in less than an hour with all council members casing 9 ayes in support.

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Although she supported the budget, Councilmember Gladys Baisa, was the only one to do so with reservations.   Baisa expressed concern over funding cuts to services within the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of Fire and Public Safety saying, “I’m afraid there’s only so much we can cut before it becomes diminishing returns.”  At the same time, she voted in support of the budget with a “margin of confidence” in the work and thought put into the budget by the committee chair.

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The committee held 22 meetings in the council Chamber over a six week period to discuss the Mayor’s proposed budget.  The members also held eight district meetings to receive public testimony on the budget from residents throughout the county.

“Should the Administration find that it cannot operate with this budget,” Pontanilla said, “the Mayor has the option of proposing a budget amendment to recognize additional revenue or reallocate funds.”

“I feel we acted cautiously, judiciously and responsibly in bringing about a fiscally prudent budget,” said Councilmember Bill Medeiros who represents East Maui.

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Similar remarks were made by fellow Councilmember Michael Victorino who described the budget as “fiscally prudent and lean.”

Lanai Councilmember Sol Kahoohalahala said despite the tough year, the circumstances gave the council the opportunity to look at ways of being innovative and creative.

Council Chair Danny Mateo meantime reflected upon the “sobering moment,” of being faced with the possibility of losing the county’s share of the Transient Accommodation Tax or TAT.  Although the state legislature failed to pass a measure relating the to the item, Mateo said, “The bottom line is we have made a change from business as usual.”

Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson of West Maui agreed that the 11th hour decision on the TAT complicated the budget process.  In cutting and then restoring $4 million in road resurfacing funds, Johnson said, the council was diligent in assuring that provisions were added to address issues of accountability.

Fellow Councilmember Mike Molina said he does not expect the TAT issue to go away next year, summing up the approach to the 2010 budget in a few words:  “We did a lot of belt tightening; I guess you could say we’re on a diet.”

(By Wendy OSHER © 2009; file image by Wendy OSHER ©2009)

Related stories on file:

Council Unanimously Passes Budget on First Reading

Department Heads Fight For Resortation of Funds in Final Budget Deliberations

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