Council Approves FY 2011 Budget on First Reading
After six weeks, eight district meetings and 27 meetings in the council chambers, the Maui County council approved on first reading yesterday its version of the 2011 fiscal year budget. The vote was unanimous at 8-0. Budget Committee Chair Joseph Pontanilla said the budget committee recommendation decreases the Mayor’s proposed $530 million by an estimated $6 million.
Real Property Tax Rate Adjustments
The Budget and Finance Committee recommended that real property tax rates proposed by the Mayor be reduced for improved residential from $5.80 to $5; unimproved residential from $7.25 to $6.25; commercialized residential from $6.25 to $4; and hotel and resort from $8.75 to $8.30. The committee also recommended that the $6.25 rate for the commercial classification established in the FY10 budget be maintained.
“As property owners will face many challenges from the economic downturn,” said Budget Chair Joseph Pontanilla. “The committee further noted that real property tax rates for all classifications will remain the same or increase only slightly from the current fiscal year,” said Pontanilla, “and any rate increase will be largely offset by the decrease in real property tax valuation. This will result in a lower tax bill for many tax payers,” said Pontanilla.
Rate increases for user fees; bond withheld for Kihei Police Station
The committee also supported increases in user fees in an effort to fulfill the county’s responsibilities for repair and maintenance projects. The increases, Pontanilla said, are expected to allow for continued self sufficiency of the water and sewer funds, result in improved facilities and operations.
The committee also agreed with the Mayor’s proposal to increase golf rates at the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course. The move, Pontanilla said, allows the county to decrease the General Fund Transfer to the Golf Fund.
Decreases in funding from the General Obligation Bond were recommended as well as the withholding bond authorization funds for the Kihei Police Station and the Lahaina Fire Station addition projects, pending receipt of additional information. Accordingly, the proposed bond authorization was decreased by $21.1 million from $45 million to $23.9 million.
Furloughs approved, jobs reviewed
The Budget and Finance Committee agreed with the Mayor’s proposed one-day per month furlough of County employees. It further recommended deleting most vacant positions in the General Fund except for uniformed fire and police personnel, dispatchers, or any position identified as being crucial to the operations of a department.
Cuts were recommended to some positions including in the Solid Waste Fund, as that fund continues to be subsidized by the General Fund. Four positions were added to the Department of Finance – Real Property Tax Division, to assist the county in processing and collecting the approximately $20 million outstanding in real property tax appeals and delinquent tax accounts. The position will also assist with homeowner exemption enforcement in agriculture use determination.
Cost for Bus Service revised
The Mayor’s proposal to eliminate the monthly pass system for the Maui Bus was rejected. The committee instead chose to recommend modifications to the system instead. Under the committee recommendations, General Boarding is available at $45 per month for all routes; $30 per month for Seniors 55 years and older, and students with a valid student ID for all routes; and $20 per month for Loop and Villager routes.
The committee also recommended that social service transportation remain free and that American with Disabilities Act Para-Transit Program participants ride at the same rate.
Funding maintained for Youth and Elderly Programs; cut for Fire helicopter
Funding was reinstated to the Head Start Program, summer youth programs, transportation programs, the Air Ambulance, and the Maui Food Bank. Funding was also maintained for a range of environment and watershed grants.
Funding for the Fire Department’s helicopter was reduced by $90,000 to bring the appropriation in line with prior year’s expenditures. “The committee recognizes that if there are more fire emergencies than planned, the Department of Fire and Public Safety can utilize funds from the Emergency Fund, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement, or state wildland fire reimbursement,” said Pontanilla.
CIP projects supported
The Budget and Finance Committee supported all of the Mayor’s requests for CIP funding. It also added the Puunene Raceway Park resurfacing project to address safety issues for police, fire and public works employees who train at the facility. Another addition was funds provided for the Nahiku Community Center to match funds under a state appropriation.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget, Pontanilla said, “provides the administration with the resources and flexibility to provide much needed services and programs to residents of Maui County.”
Pontanilla further stated that the body did not do blanket cuts, but rather carefully scrutinized funding for each department and non-profit organization. The Fiscal Year 2011 budget begins on July 1, 2010 and ends on June 30 2011.