Ka Leo positions might move to parks and recreation

Two positions of the Ka Leo O Kaua‘i community program to address public concerns should be taken out of the Mayor’s Office and put in the new county Parks and Recreation Department, said Kaua‘i County Council Committee of the Whole Chairman Ron Kouchi.

During a committee review this week of the mayor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Kouchi voted to eliminate the two positions —one funded at $45,612 and the other at $51,312 — because of what he said was cited as the high cost to staff the new department, approved through a charter amendment by voters in November.

The county administration has relied on the program as a way to solicit public concerns and to work with the community in finding solutions.

Kouchi said Thursday the Ka Leo program is still alive, and it will be up to the mayor to have the two positions put in the new department.

“When I voted to remove the two positions, I said that with the passing of the charter amendment making a separate parks and recreation department, we have now found it would cost $2 million or more to staff it,” he said. “It was simply my belief that the Ka Leo program should be more appropriate through the Parks and Recreational Department.”

Mayor Bryan Baptiste said the program is an invaluable asset.

“The program has achieved so many things,” he said in an e-mail. “I wish we could retain what has been working in its present state.”

He added, “I will now have to study what possibilities are available and maintain the intent of the program.”

County Public Information Officer Mary Daubert also said the community has benefited significantly from having the program under the Mayor’s Office.

The program helped rally residents to ask government to replace the Olohena Bridge in Kapa‘a, raise public awareness about car-racing in neighborhoods, spark interest in traffic-calming measures and encourage residents to work with government to refurbish parks in Waimea and at Hanapepe Cliffsides and ‘Anini Beach, Daubert said.

Volunteers also have cleaned up beach accesses, she said. “Those are just a few, and we could go on and on.”

“The Ka Leo program serves as a link between the community and county government,” Daubert said, noting 3,000 residents have attended Ka Leo meetings, and program leaders “have organized and recruited many of our county volunteer teams such as Adopt a Park, Graffiti Busters, Neighborhood Watch and CERT.”

A party was held in March to celebrate the program’s fourth year in operation and to recognize supporters.

Kouchi said he didn’t keep track of how committee members voted on his proposal, but said it would be part of an overall budget package that the council will vote on soon.

Baptiste sent to the council on March 15 a proposed $139.4-million operating budget and $66.6-million capital improvement budget for the next fiscal year.

This past Wednesday, the council received Baptiste’s proposed supplemental budget — a $149.1-million operating budget and a $67.6-million capital improvement budget.

That budget takes into account the certification of county tax revenues by the finance director and clarification of available revenues.

Next Wednesday, the Committee of the Whole will vote on its two proposed operating and capital improvement budgets and then property tax rates through a resolution, all taking into account the supplemental budget and public concerns.

The council has scheduled a public hearing on the supplemental budget at 8 a.m. on May 29 at the Historic County Building.

The council will take final action on the budgets at 8:15 a.m. the same day.

The budgets will then go the mayor for approval or veto.

A balanced county budget must be in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, as required by the county charter.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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