By Wendy Osher
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa vetoed eight line-items in the fiscal year 2015 county budget on Monday saying the action will reduce county expenditures by an estimated $29.7 million.
Mayor Arakawa claims the county’s actual revenues “would not have been sufficient to fund the Council-appropriated projects” that he vetoed and “would have created a budget shortfall.”
He said the items could’ve forced the county to shorten its hours of operation at the Central Maui Landfill, and fund a new Kahului Community Center for which the county has yet to secure land for.
The mayor also objected to appropriations for capital improvement project expenditures that had not yet been approved by a bond authorization bill.
“The vetoes I have made were not made lightly, nor do I dismiss the hard work that our Council put into this budget process,” said Mayor Arakawa in a press release statement. “Nevertheless, there are certain parts of this budget which, if left intact, would put money into projects that don’t even exist yet and could potentially affect public service provided by our departments,” he said.
In a letter to County Clerk Danny Mateo, Arakawa outlined the items and provided an explanation for his actions. The list includes the following items and the mayor’s explanation for his veto:
- General Fund, New Kahului Community Center: “Funding in this budget for this project is premature. The details of this project have not been established. Appropriations in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for this project remain unspent. From our preliminary discussions for a new Kahului community center we understand that to date, the site being donated as part of conditions of zoning has not been identified by the developer. The site cannot be turned over to the county until various land use matters are resolved including, but not limited to, subdivision which may be years to come. Without an identified site, it is impossible to design a facility because items such as grading and infrastructure connections are unknown.”
- Bond Fund, Upcountry Refillable Capacity;
- Bond Fund, Kula Agricultural Park Expansion;
- Bond Fund, South Maui Community Park, and associated provisions; and
- Bond Fund, Molokaʻi Reliable Capacity: While the mayor said he supports the intent of the aforementioned capital improvement projects (items 2-5), he said, “I object to the appropriations for the sole reason that funding for these projects has not been authorized in Bill No. 34 (2014), (“Bond Authorization Bill”). This method of appropriating funds for bond funded projects without the required revenue authorized is inappropriate. While estimated revenues are identified, we are not authorized to receive that revenue, therefore from an accounting perspective, this creates an unbalanced budget and is inconsistent with the spirit of the charter. Should the council have desired to restrict the expenditure on these projects, provisions setting forth those restrictions would have been the appropriate charter authorized vehicle.”
- As it pertains to Section 8: “I object to the language added to this section, ‘general obligation bonds appropriated in this ordinance need not be authorized contemporaneously with this ordinance to be included as estimated revenues.’ This language was added and characterized as a non-substantive revision after the Budget and Finance Committee had recommended adoption of the budget bill without the language. However this is a substantive change intended to legitimize the lack of authorized bond revenue for the appropriated capital projects, potentially creating a situation where actual revenues available will be insufficient to meet the amount appropriated as referenced in Section 9-10 of the charter.”
- Bond Fund, countywide mainline and infrastructure improvements: “The idea of providing mainline improvement funds to offset water service infrastructure costs for developers who would be required to install them prior to meter issuance is laudable. There is an existing ordinance which appears to have an intent similar to the intent of this project, but the council has not provided the necessary details to properly assess this. To accomplish this goal the council should evaluate the merits and various particulars of implementation through appropriate revisions to the county code prior to appropriating funds.”
- Solid Waste Management Fund Provisions: “Generally speaking, the provisions listed as (i) to (v) are inappropriately set on the first provision listed for that program which relates to the limitation of equivalent personnel. Further, provisions (ii) and (iv) put restrictions on the expenditures of the Solid Waste Operations program that may impede the department from addressing issues with the landfills that could result in the issuance of violations from the state Department of Health or other regulatory bodies. I also object to the restrictions in provision (v). These detailed restrictions spelling out the type and size of equipment that shall be purchased with the available funding may create burdens that will prevent the department from buying the equipment necessary for the program if it does not meet the provision’s specifications.”
In his letter to Mateo, Mayor Arakawa also outlined other items that the said he had concerns with, but would not veto. The list includes what he called a “lack of support” in terms of funding and personnel for long-term programs within the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Water Supply.
He said the plans, if implemented, would have “balanced infrastructure needs against rates and fees” within the Department of Water Supply; and would have addressed community concerns and needs along with economic benefits within the Parks department.
“We must ensure that the county budget makes the best use of taxpayer money, but this was not the case when I received it. I implore the Council to carefully review my rationale for each line-item veto, and to consider how these changes benefit our community,” Mayor Arakawa said in the press release.