Maui News

Hokama Releases Finance Committee’s FY2016 Budget Proposal

April 28, 2015, 1:01 PM HST
* Updated April 28, 1:28 PM
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G Riki Hokama official photo. Credit: Nagamine.

G Riki Hokama official photo. Credit: Nagamine.

By Maui Now Staff

Budget and Finance Committee Chair Riki Hokama released his version of the proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget yesterday, cutting $96 million in borrowing and $22 million in operating costs from the Mayor’s proposed $699.9 million budget.

Hokama said the document takes into account “real limitations on resources,” and “the need to pay for required services.”

​On average, the proposal reduces real property tax rates by 3.5% from Fiscal Year 2015 rates to offset property values. The plan also calls for restrictions on spending for each department’s salary, operations, and equipment accounts; includes $1.2 million included to eradicate coqui frogs; and appropriates funds to construct a municipal parking structure in Wailuku.

​“Nothing is free,” said Hokama in a press release announcement. “Not fixing roads or replacing waterlines. Not putting out fires or performing ocean rescues.”

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​“To the contrary,” he added, these services all “come at a cost to our County’s residents and taxpayers.”

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The full text of Chair Hokama’s remarks are included below:

Nothing is free.

Not fixing roads or replacing waterlines. Not putting out fires or performing ocean rescues. Not providing police officers to keep us safe.

Nothing is free.

Not County parks or swimming pools or civil defense sirens. Not the trucks to pick up your trash or the staffing to prosecute crimes. Not conducting elections or running buses.

We can always argue over whether the County is providing enough—whether a commuter route goes far enough, a road has few enough potholes, whether laws are responsive enough. We can argue over whether funding is sufficient to stamp out coqui frogs or quiet the night sky or shelter those in need.

As Chair of the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, I will tell you that I take seriously this basic principle: Nothing is free.

To the contrary, it all comes at a cost to our County’s residents and taxpayers.

The cost of providing County core services has risen. The cost of union-negotiated fire fighter contractual benefits such as rank-for-rank recall and bureau opportunity incentive pay requirements are but one example. Yet we would not jeopardize our residents’ safety by saying firstresponder services should, therefore, be reduced.

When landfill hours or trash pick-up services are cut back, despite adequate funding, residents are impacted. We want more water flowing to our taps, more contributions to nonprofits, less wait time when we go to renew our drivers’ licenses.

But nothing is free, and government must learn to live within its means.

Members of the Budget and Finance Committee traveled to you, members of the bill-paying public, with a mic in hand, over the course of eight evenings this month. We went to Hana, Lanai, Molokai, Kihei, Haiku, Lahaina, Pukalani, and Kahului. We received 461 responses to our survey on your spending priorities.

Competing considerations for your taxpayer dollars are great. There are so many worthy causes you spoke about.

But we also heard you say you cannot afford the increases being proposed by the Mayor—a $699.9 million budget, 16 per cent higher than the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, with $123 million in borrowing. How many in our community can say they can spend 16 per cent more this year than they could last year? That for every dollar you had last year, you have 16 cents more to spend this year?

The Mayor’s proposed spending would cause double-digit percentage increases in real property taxes for most. With significant increases in property valuations over last fiscal year, no change to real property tax rates means higher tax bills residents can ill afford.

Ninety-six million dollars more in spending than last year. The Mayor’s proposal is not sustainable.

If the Council declined to enact its own version of the budget, we would be left with the Mayor’s. Why would the Mayor foist that $699.9 million burden on the people we were elected to serve?

This Committee will better learn its lessons from our residents. Our residents spend within their means, rather than create a wish list then extract payment for that wish list from their neighbors.

The Mayor would have you believe this wish list is something our residents can afford. I don’t buy it. I don’t think our residents do either.

This Committee’s responsibility is to recommend to the Council a budget that takes into account our very real limitations on resources, our need to pay required services and provide for a growing community, and our need to help, not hinder, our ohana.

I am proud to share my plan to “right-size” the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget.

The proposal I am distributing to you this morning decreases borrowing by $96 million, and operating costs by $22 million.

My proposal defers capital improvement projects with insufficient design or site control to move forward, and adjusts budgets for departments given sufficient funding last year which failed to perform.

Operational costs still remain approximately $18 million higher than in Fiscal Year 2015. But overall, your Chair’s proposal is $17 million lower than the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.

On average, real property tax rates are reduced by 3.5 per cent, as property values have increased 13.5 per cent.

Other rates and fees have also been adjusted to help ensure services for residents are sustainable for years to come.

Despite these adjustments, the following important initiatives are in this budget proposal:

  • Restrictions in spending for each department’s salary, operations, and
  • $1.2 million to eradicate coqui frogs; equipment accounts to ensure funds are used as appropriated;
  • An initiative to generate approximately $5 million in revenues by enhancing
  • An initiative to improve our municipal golf course and allow for greater
  • Funds to finally realize the longstanding goal of constructing a municipal
  • Appropriations from the Water Fund to continue to tackle the wait list for water
  • Funding for nonprofits generally remain at the same level as they were in
  • In keeping with Section 3-9 of the Charter, which declares it to be the policy of operations at the Real Property Tax Division; flexibility on rates, making it more competitive with private courses and moving it closer to the mandate that it be self-sustaining; parking structure in Wailuku; meters Upcountry; Fiscal Year 2015; and finally, the County to promote economy, efficiency, and improved service in the transaction of the public business, I am recommending the following:

o Restoring audit funds in the Office of Council Services to examine ways to promote operational efficiencies throughout the County;

o Reducing premium pay where feasible; and

o Generally leaving equivalent personnel counts unchanged from Fiscal Year 2015.

The cost to our residents, were the Council to do nothing and allow the Mayor’s budget to take effect, is too high. I suggest we start with the axiom that nothing is free and do what we were elected to do—budget responsibly.

This is my proposal, members. Let’s continue our work.

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