Committee Recommends $604M Budget, Mayor Cites Concerns
By Maui Now Staff
The Maui Budget and Finance Committee today completed its review of the fiscal year 2015 budget and recommended passage of a $604 million budget, that includes a 3.1% reduction in real property tax rates across the board, according to an announcement from Committee Chair Mike White.
“The tax relief for our county’s residents and businesses was a foremost consideration,” said White in a press release announcing the committee’s progress.
“My biggest concern was in giving something back to the public despite significant increases in expenses that we need to cover,” while “giving enough to the nonprofits that we depend on to keep Maui a very welcoming and wonderful place,” he said.
The budget reflects an $18.5 million decrease in spending from the mayor’s proposed budget, a difference that Mayor Arakawa said, “reflects only a 3% adjustment from our original proposed budget for fiscal year 2015.”
Mayor Arakawa released a statement this afternoon saying, “We appreciate the efforts of committee members over these last several days to pass a more responsible budget, one that takes into consideration the needs of the community and concerns brought up by the public and the departments,” however, he said, “we still have some concerns about how this budget affects the community.”
The mayor released a list of concerns that that he says remain including the following:
- “Capital improvement projects in dire need of upgrades – such as our district park systems – were significantly reduced, as well as required repairs to our fire and other county buildings.
- Other much needed capital improvement items such as the Public Works Baseyard improvements in Makawao and Lahaina as well as planning and design for the consolidated baseyard and future regional park in Central Maui were completely eliminated. At some point these funds will have to be restored because the community needs these projects and so we are only delaying the bill for our taxpayers.
- The cuts sustained to the proposed operating budget were mostly in expansions areas that are either mandated by the 2012 charter amendments or were proposed to better serve our community. These included staffing at our satellite motor vehicle and licensing offices to reduce wait times and frustrations as residents renew driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, personnel to increase the county’s efforts in environmental protection and sustainability as required by the revised charter and park security officers to keep our resident park goers safe and to protect the parks from vandalism.
- While the committee’s proposed property tax decrease will benefit all taxpayers, it seems to do more for the hotel industry than the average resident. Under the current budget, hotels receive a nearly $8 million property tax reduction while homeowners receive a $2.1 million reduction.”
Despite the concerns, Arakawa said, “The administration will do our best with the resources provided and continue to provide the best level of public service possible for our community. Mahalo to the Budget and Finance Committee for their hard work and we look forward to finalizing the FY2015 budget in the coming month.”
Council Member G Riki Hokama of Lānaʻi, who serves as vice-chair of the committee, reminded county officials and the public that funding was not taken away from any department, with the budget increasing 8% from fiscal year 2014, according to a committee announcement.
Council Member Michael Victorino said “fiscal prudence” was required to get things done, and said, “The word compromise is the only word that can make it work.”
Among the allocations included in the budget was a $10 million appropriation for countywide mainline and water infrastructure improvements. Council Chair Gladys Baisa called the move “historic” and credited the committee for making progress on the ongoing Upcountry water meter issue.
She also described the budget proposal as “fair” saying that it meets the needs of the county, but doesn’t overtax the community.
White highlighted a list of initiatives to boost economic development which included the following:
- $16.6 million in funding for the proposed gymnasium at South Maui Community Park to have the structure developed as a multipurpose center, attracting larger sporting events and conferences, and drawing athletic and business activities to the island.
- $200,000 to Maui Economic Development Board for new business development and job creation.
- A 20-cent per 1,000-gallon decrease in agricultural water rates for usage above 15,000 gallons and for non-potable water rates in an effort to support local agriculture.
Funds were also released for the following projects as part of the committee version of the budget:
- $4.5 million for the Molokaʻi baseyard;
- $1 million for the Kaunakakai police station;
- $500,000 for the Lānaʻi Community Health Center facility;
- $250,000 for planning and design for a new Lānaʻi youth center facility;
- $21 million for countywide water supply upgrades;
- $5 million for road resurfacing and pavement restoration; and
- $7.4 million for parks capital improvement projects.
According to White, the Ocean Safety Division will remain under the Department of Parks and Recreation while additional measures are taken to prepare the Department of Fire and Public Safety for the Charter-mandated transition of the division to the department.
“A reconvened public hearing on the real property tax rates is set for May 16, with the budget anticipated to be scheduled for first reading before the council on May 27,” White announced.
The deadline for the council to pass the budget is on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. If the council fails to pass a budget by the deadline, the mayor’s version of the budget will take effect on July 1, 2014.