Arakawa Unveils “Most Aggressive Budget” to Date
Calling it his “most aggressive budget proposal to date,” Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa presented his version of the proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget to Maui County Council members today.
During a press conference today, Mayor Arakawa said, “Without planning, we could not get the best return from the community’s investment. Without investment, there is no mechanism to bring these plans to fruition. To be an effective government, we need both.”
The budget consists of $820 million in county funds budgeted for FY2019. Mayor Arakawa said he anticipates an additional $62.6 million in grant revenue for a grand total of $882.6 million.
Arakawa said the money will provide funding for an Operating Budget of $605 million and a Capitol Program Budget of $214.9 million. He said there’s also an additional $12.5 million in federal highway project grants.
Capitol Improvement Projects include:
- $81.2 million for the construction of the Wailuku Civic Hub, which Arakawa said has undergone community planning for over a decade. “The hub will be the cornerstone of redevelopment and revitalization of Wailuku Town for generations to come.”
- $35.4 million for road resurfacing and improvements, including the round-a-bout at Kamehameha Avenue and Maui Lani Parkway which Mayor Arakawa said “will improve traffic, making the area safer for students and pedestrians.”
- $23.5 million in additional funds for wastewater improvements. Mayor Arakawa said this is an expansion to supplement the $94 million already invested to help the county transition from using injection wells to using recycled water for irrigation. “It’s a lot of work and the cost will be around $117.5 million, but it needed to be done.
- $20.1 million for new parks facilities and improvements including a new starters booth and restaurant facility at the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course. “Last year I made a proposal to close the course if we didn’t make improvements… council took a stand that they wanted to spend the money to make the improvements, and we’re going along with that. We’re redoing the golf course greens. We’re going to be trying to redo the facilities at the golf course because I believe now, everybody understands what it takes to be able to run that course and is willing to participate.”
Operational Projects include the following:
- $9 million for Housing and Human Concerns to acquire property to expand homeless shelters and affordable housing countywide. The department will also re-establish the first time home buyers assistance program. “We are so far in deficit in affordable housing, if we don’t put in money to start a system and the creation of affordable housing, we’re going to find that many of our people in our community will have to leave because they cannot afford to live here.”
- $6.5 million for deposit into the emergency fund. This includes money that was spent for working during the ʻĪao flood, budgeted to cut down dead eucalyptus trees along Piʻiholo Road.
- $2.7 million for Fire and Public Safety to replace water rescue craft for Ocean Safety, as well as pumper trucks for the Nāpili and Wailuku Stations. The cost also covers pay for four Ocean Safety officers and their equipment to operate a lifeguard station at Puʻu Kekaʻa “Black Rock” in Kāʻanapali. According to Arakawa, resorts are donating the land and the lifeguard tower. “While this is not a county beach park, this is an area where the most drownings on our island are taking place. If this public-private partnership can help educate and protect beach goers, as well as save many lives, it only makes sense to have a lifeguard where we’re having the most drownings, and consistently having those drownings,” the mayor said.
- $1.2 million for planning Maui Island Plan implementation reports. Community plan updates and studies, shoreline beach management and restoration studies, and to overhaul Title 19 zoning codes. “Some of our planning projects, like developing our Ag park can take years. Others like reforestation or creating a new deep water harbor may take generations.”
- $745,000 for the Transportation Department to buy replacement buses and Maui Economic Oppotunity shuttles. This includes a $300,000 grant to MEO for a new maintenance facility and pilot Waiheʻe bus route will also begin this year.
- $367,000 for the Maui Police Department to increase the number of patrol officers in the Central district which encompasses Wailuku and Kahului, all the way up to Haʻikū and ʻUlupalakua. The department also needs $220,000 for police body camera data storage and maintenance. “We cannot, with all of the expansion of the population in the country areas–Haʻikū, Makawao, Kula–continue to serve them with so few police officers,” said Arakawa, noting an increase in theft and other complaints.
To help pay for these project, Mayor Arakawa is proposing what he called “a progressive, tiered new tax structure.” There will be one rate for property valued at less than $500,000; another rate for property valued at between $500,000 and $1.4 million; and a third rate for property worth more than $1.5 million.
“In addition, this will be the first budget implementing the council’s amendment to separate short-term rental units, hotels and resort tax classifications. Please note, these changes will not affect homeowners, and will allow rates to be adjusted to generate the revenue required to maintain county services and infrastructure,” said Mayor Arakawa.
He said that if the tiered rate is approved by the council, there will be no reason to increase property taxes this year and rates will remain the same for a majority of the property owners, “despite the fact that values have increased.”
The mayor also touted the financial self-sufficient status of the Solid Waste Division saying no general fund money will be needed to support operations.
During his state of the county address last month, Mayor Arakawa said his administration would continue work to improve infrastructure, protect shorelines, find new ways to recycle and use wastewater, promote collection storage and use of renewable energy, expand sustainable agriculture, reduce homelessness and improve the economy.
“We can only hope that the goals that we have set will ensure our children have a better quality of life than we did. That it is our duty for each generation that comes afterwards to do their part for the generation ahead. In the end, our goals are the same as those who came before us back in 1978. We would hope that the next administration and the next generation acquire some institutional memory, and reviews these goals, as the community will benefit from their continued propagation.”