CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES
Published in The Maui News, April 16, 2017
By MIKE WHITE
The County Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama, is anticipated to wrap up discussions with departments this week on the mayor’s proposed $720 million budget.
Hokama is expected to present a proposal on April 24 based on input from departmental deliberations and the community. The committee will undertake a final review and is anticipated to make a final decision by May 1. The council has until June 10 to approve the budget — if not, the mayor’s proposal will take effect on July 1.
As proposed, $563.5 million is slated in the mayor’s operating budget, which is $17.9 million more than the current year. Highlights include $24.8 million for grant subsidies to support social welfare, economic development and veterans, $55.1 million for our police force, $35.4 million for fire and public safety and $30 million for parks. Other notable initiatives include funding to address the affordable housing crises and rising homelessness.
The capital improvement projects slated for fiscal year 2018 total $156.7 million, which include $28.6 million for a new County Service Center, $53.3 million in solid waste and wastewater system improvements, $16.2 million in parks and recreation facility improvements (including the War Memorial Gym) and $33 million in water system upgrades and replacements.
To fund these initiatives, the mayor has proposed a 7.5 percent increase to real property tax rates in every category, on top of the 2.9 percent increase in property values. Other revenue-generating measures also include raising residential refuse collection fees by $6 per month and adding a $3 residential tipping fee at the Central Maui landfill.
A controversial proposal that is being opposed by many throughout the community is the closure of the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course. For the record, I stand with the many residents who are against the closure of this important community facility. I will continue to support efforts to identify creative ways for the course to increase its revenues and offset expenses so it can operate for generations to come.
Overall, I understand the need to find additional funds to run the county, but the reality is our resources are not endless. I always strive to keep the best interests of residents in mind and continue to be aware of the burden being placed on your pocketbooks.
The committee will continue to scrutinize each department’s spending so they can do more with less and strive for a greater level of efficiency. After all, it is your hard-earned dollars that fund this county.
I appreciate those of you who have already shared thoughts on the proposed budget, as the council relies on the community to make the best possible decisions. For example, we have heard concerns over the spread of the rat lungworm disease. I believe this is an important priority and the county must work diligently with partners and stakeholders to keep our community safe.
Public input will continue to be heard all week, including Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center and Tuesday in the Council Chambers, both at 6 p.m.
The public may also provide oral testimony at any subsequent meeting in the Council Chambers, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail correspondence to the Budget and Finance Committee at 200 S. High St., Wailuku 96793.
Meanwhile, county officials on Wednesday held a joint press conference to urge the state Legislature to extend Act 170. The measure is set to expire on June 30 and provides limited liability protection to county lifeguards and counties providing lifeguard services on beaches or in the ocean. Despite many discussions, the Legislature has not yet agreed to an amicable extension. It is imperative that our lawmakers not give in to special interest tort lobbyists and agree on an extension so our lifeguards can continue to do their jobs without the fear of unreasonable lawsuits.
* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.