VIDEO: Maui Mayor Signs Budget, but Disappointed in Cuts
By Wendy Osher
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzwfB4D4Eus /] Maui Mayor Arakawa today approved the County’s FY 2012 budget, calling it “a good budget.” While 98 percent of the Mayor’s operational budget was left intact, there were areas of “disappointment” including cuts to water projects and a proposed curbside recycling program.
In announcing his decision to sign off on the Council document, Mayor Arakawa said, “Council Chairman Mateo and Budget Committee Chairman Joe Pontanilla have done a commendable job bringing the Council together to make some tough decisions.”
Common Ground Reached on Key Projects:
The mayor said he particularly appreciated the Council’s support of several projects, including:
- $16.2 million to upgrade the public safety radio system
- $17 million to complement building construction funds for the Kihei police station
- $4 million to buy the land needed for the Central Maui Regional Park
- $24 million in non-profit funding restored
The mayor was also pleased that the Council supported an end to the furloughs so that “County workers can get back to work and serve the public full-time.” The Council also supported of the mayor’s attrition program, which was designed to reduce the cost of government by reducing its workforce.
“The major project that we really wanted was the money to buy 242 acres for a park in Central Maui, and that is within the budget; the Kihei Police Station which we want to start is in the budget; the roadway improvements that we wanted to make–we had added more money to roadway improvements–they cut it back a little bit, but it’s still more than it was last year,” said Mayor Arakawa.
On Monday morning he had still not received the official document, and was reviewing a draft version with County Budget Director Sandy Baz.
“We had a little bit of a shock two weeks before the final budget was passed when they made major adjustments,” said Mayor Arakawa, “but, during the last session, they readjusted a lot of the proposals back.”
Mayor Arakawa said his version of the budget, and the council’s version were similar in the area of real property tax. “They did not raise the minimum tax from $150 to $300, so we’re basically about the same (in that area),” said the Mayor, who noted that adjustments to the homeowner’s exemption, which the council had wanted to implement, would not come into play until next year.
Arakawa also noted similarities in the administration budget saying there was little adjustment made in the operational area. “As far as the major projects in the administration side where we are talking about all of the different departments and their programs, the budget is virtually about the same,” said Mayor Arakawa.
The same can not be said for the CIP portion of the budget.
Funding Cut for Water and Curbside Recycling:
$400,000 Cut for South Maui Curbside Recycling
The mayor said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Council cut about $400,000 in funding for Maui County’s first curbside recycling project in the Maui Meadows area.
“They removed that money from the budget altogether. It will delay the recycling process at least another year,” said Mayor Arakawa.
“This would have been the County’s first real automated curbside recycling project,” he said. “The community needs this project to get underway soon. It has been delayed for far too long already.”
$25 Million in Funding Cut for Water Projects
Other areas of concern also include the Council cutting $25 million in Department of Water Supply projects. The mayor said these water projects are needed so that the County can eventually get water to all those who need it, especially for Upcountry residents.
“Our water system needs must be addressed before we can address those on the list for water meters,” he said.
“The major capital improvement programs where we have a difference in how we’re going to budget is that–for instance the state revolving loan fund for Waikamoi Flume–we had put in $10 million; they put in a dollar,” said Mayor Arakawa.
According to Mayor Arakawa, the county was mandated by the state to make repairs to the leaky flume.
“We put in $10 million in order to be able to purchase a source–which could have been the Franks Well, or it could have been in Kahului–we’re working with the acquisition of the Wailuku Water Company–or in Lahaina acquiring some wells from Maui Pine,” said Mayor Arakawa.
“Instead what they did was they zeroed it out to a dollar and they asked us when we’re ready to purchase a specific well, to come to them, and ask them for financing. But, again, we’re very clear that they wanted us to acquire a source, and not stop the process,” he said.
Cuts made to Roadway Improvements
“We can always use more money for roadway improvements in almost every community has major roadways that need to have resurfacing and work done. I apologize to most of you–that’s going to be delayed a little bit more because the budget was cut somewhat by the council, but it’s still more that it was last year–so I think they see the significance and the need, but it’s just a question of trying to balance the budget,” said Arakawa.
Amendments to be Sought on “Must Fund” Projects:
The mayor said there were many other important “must fund” projects which had its funding deleted by Council members. But the mayor also said that Council members have been receptive to the budget amendments that he plans to submit on behalf of those projects.
“I have already spoken to members of the Council about these amendments,” the mayor said. “They understand that we need these amendments so that our departments can do the work that the public expects them to do.”
“Philosophically, the Council is looking at trying to keep the numbers smaller, so they want us to come in after the fact–after the budget has passed–and ask for funding for some of these projects, whereas we try to identify all of the projects; whereas, we tried to identify all of the projects that we wanted to work with and put those numbers in the budget.”
“I think that we’re trying to be more open and honest with what the actual costs were going to be to the public. The way the council has put it, they are going to be more accurate, because we’re going to have real numbers instead of guesstimates.”