After reading the article in The Garden Island newspaper about the council’s rejection of the Charter Amendment relating to affordable housing, I felt a need to provide additional clarification on the action taken by the council on this matter.
The Kauai County Council, at its meeting on July 11, thoroughly deliberated on Resolution No. 2018-23, “Resolution Proposing a Charter Amendment Relating to Affordable Housing.” While all councilmembers wholeheartedly support affordable housing, I and five of my colleagues could not support the extremely restrictive Charter Amendment Resolution that mandated 3 percent of all certified real property tax revenues be dedicated to a special budgetary fund for the sole purpose of funding affordable housing.
During the discussion, it was apparent that my colleagues and I disagreed with the introducer on the mechanism, not the need, for providing funding for affordable housing.
A Charter Amendment is not the appropriate method to address a budgetary matter. Funding for county projects, including affordable housing, should be done through the annual budget process or through a supplemental money bill introduced during the fiscal year.
We need to remember that the council, the body responsible for the budgetary and fiscal matters of the county, should be provided the opportunity to thoroughly vet the proposal and consider the fiscal implications that an annual mandated appropriation would have on county operations.
Once the council has had the opportunity to evaluate the proposal, we will have a much better idea of how the proposal should be funded — whether through a reduction in services or through the use of surplus funds identified after the fiscal year-end audit produced via the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Once this is done, we can then responsibly fund the many priorities of the County of Kauai, including affordable housing.
A charter in any corporate body defines the formal organization or framework, outlining the principles and functions of a corporate body. A charter sets up the organizational structure of an entity and should not be used to set or circumvent the budgetary process, a clear responsibility of the county’s legislative branch, the Kauai County Council.
The charter clearly prohibits the public from using the initiative and referendum process to change any fiscal or budgetary issues such as taxes, salaries, and the issuance of bonds because those who crafted the charter saw the potential downfall of allowing these types of matters to be decided by those other than the legislative branch in order to protect the County of Kauai from the ramifications of fiscal instability. This is the reason why I and many of my colleagues opposed this specific Charter Amendment proposal.
Affordable housing is not an easy problem to solve. We need to continue to work with our many partners, including the federal and state government, nonprofits, and others in the community to make additional affordable housing a reality. The council is committed to support funding for affordable housing through the budgetary or supplemental money bill process, as well as through collaboration and cooperation with our Housing Agency and county administration.
Mel Rapozo is chair of the Kauai County Council.