Kenoi noted that “For the fifth straight year, the County of Hawai‘i will collect less in property taxes than it did when this administration began in 2008. Tax collections in Fiscal Year 2008-09 were $225.9 million and are expected to total $200.6 million during Fiscal Year 2013-2014. This continuing lag in tax collections has been coupled with years of cost increases in areas such as employee health care and retirement costs and unpredictable fluctuations in utilities and fuel. In short, it will cost us more to deliver the same services next year, and there will be approximately the same amount of money available to provide these services,” the budget message said.
Kenoi said the admnistration’s proposed budget “represents the fifth year of our continuing effort to control and reduce spending wherever possible. Overtime spending has been reduced by 36 percent during this period, for a reduction of $5.1 million since Fiscal Year 2007-2008.”
It points out that 256 vacant positions have been unfunded during the first four years of the Kenoi administration. The mayor puts forth that “Unfunding positions has made it more difficult to provide County services, but we intend to again hold as many positions unfilled and unfunded as possible to provide for the largest possible savings.” The employee count for the County of Hawai‘i decreased from 2,787 on Nov. 30, 2008 to 2,582 as of Feb. 28, 2013.
However, the mayor proposes eliminating county furloughs by increasing the budget by about $4.2 million. Other increases include non- discretionary expenses such as debt service, retirement system contributions and the new transfer to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Maintenance Fund. The increased costs “had to be offset with further spending cuts in order to stay within available revenue to generate a balanced budget,” the mayor said.
According to the mayor, “a higher projection of carryover savings is attributed to the cumulative effect of successful cost cutting measures for the past several years and additional spending restrictions in the current year.”
ADDITiONAL SPENDING on county government is proposed in Mayor Billy Kenoi’s budget released yesterday. He said that appropriations are increased by $1.3 million for anticipated property purchases under the geothermal relocation program through which the county buys properties in areas affected by geothermal operations.
Fire Department spending would increase by approximately $200,000, primarily for fire protection costs. Funds are also budgeted to pay $350,000 of the cost to renovate the Hilo office of the Liquor Commission and to remove asbestos. Additional funds would be appropriated in subsequent years to complete payment of the full cost. Additional grant funding revenue of about $400,000 is anticipated and appropriated for various programs at the County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
Concerning vacation pay, payouts for employees separating from the County would be reduced by $500,000. Concerning insurance claims and judgments, the appropriation to cover those against the County would be reduced by $200,000.
Regarding the Wastewater Replacement Reserve Account, funding appropriated to set aside for large equipment rehabilitation and replacement must be reduced by approximately $900,000 as the Sewer Fund fund balance and replacement reserve fund balance have been exhausted, the mayor reported.
The mayor said that in order to keep the county funded, “We will continue to work closely with our state Legislators to maintain the County of Hawai‘i’s share of the Transient Accommodations Tax, which is critically important to maintain our balanced budget. We also continue to work with our Congressional delegation to secure federal resources as we work to expand our transportation infrastructure and build important capital improvement projects." He said and the county staff “look forward to working closely with the County Council as we seek to address both new and continuing demands for public services while also maintaining a balanced and responsible budget.”
http://kauchamber.org/?page_id=4 or call Lee McIntosh at 929-9872.
VOLCANO VARIETY SHOW takes place this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Acts include sketch, comedy, music and dance and are appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 children under 17. Call 967-8222.
A NIGHT OF IMPROV is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. Alohaha’s Improv-Sketch-Comedy troupe performs a series of improvisational games and original comedy sketches. $10 tickets are available at the door at 7 p.m. for adults 18 years old and over. For more, call 345-2571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.