Council committee approves budgets

The Kaua‘i County Council Committee of the Whole yesterday approved a $149 million operating budget that takes money away from the mayor’s anti-drug program, though plans are afoot to reinstate the funds.

At the same time, the budget, which will go before the full council for approval next week, provides funding for lifeguard protection at Anahola Beach Park, beefs up YWCA’s efforts to help abused women and provides funding for a study to preserve prime agricultural land.

In addition, the council committee approved $67 million for public improvements, $11.6 million of which will be put in a money bill for solid waste programs and the holding of two public hearings.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura reiterated the need for the public to give comment on technologies and methods that could be used to dispose of future garbage.

Karen Luken, a senior director with R.W. Beck, a county consultant, said yesterday the Kekaha Landfill could be used until 2013, provided that the state Department of Health approves two horizontal expansions of the facility.

But Councilman Mel Rapozo, who has reiterated the need for county administration to implement properly funded solutions, said there is no guarantee the state will do that.

Moreover, Rapozo said residents might see a gap in garbage service down the line before the county identifies a new landfill site, finds funding and processes permits.

The council’s proposed operating budget marches nearly in step with Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s proposed supplemental budgets — $149.1 million operating and $67.6 million capital improvement — that he sent to the council May 8.

The full council, however, can only legally take action on the smaller operating and improvement budgets that Baptiste sent March 15.

The higher figures in the more recent budgets are based on revisions and confirmation of property tax revenues by county Finance Director Wallace Rezentes Jr.

The full council will take action on the budgets and address a resolution to set tax rates for the next fiscal year during a special meeting Wednesday morning at the Historic County Building, 4396 Rice St.

Jay Furfaro, who heads the council’s Finance Committee, said the council committee’s budget requests more money than the mayor’s to fund:

• Additional lifeguards, a JetSki and money to install a lifeguard tower at Anahola Beach

• $70,000 to beef up the services of the YWCA

• $75,000 for a study to identify prime agricultural land.

Furfaro also said a Kauai Police Activities League position appears in three different parts of the budget, including Baptiste’s proposed funding for recreational activities.

Funding for a police officer to serve warrants also was not funded because the police department has yet to fill it, council members said.

“This number has failed to decrease in the last three years,” Councilmember Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said of felony warrants not served.

She and others also voiced concerns that the administration had spent $11,000 of a $40,000 allotment for the county’s anti-drug program on leis, refreshments and trips by county officials relating to anti-drug events. The council decided not to fund the program for the next fiscal year.

County administration officials, however, are expected to submit a plan in the future to have the funding reinstated.

In setting the tax rate through a resolution, the council proposed a 5 cent reduction in the land and building portions for every $1,000 of evaluation for seven of eight tax categories.

Yukimura said businesses have been shouldering the tax burden while homeowners have benefited from property tax cuts, due to property assessments that spiraled nearly out of control with the repeat sale of high-priced properties up until a few years ago.

A business owner, for instance, would pay $7.95 for every $1,000 of value for a building and $6.95 for the land, if the proposed reductions are approved.

Some council members said commercial building contractors should get a tax break, as fees to dump debris at the Kekaha Landfill will jump from $56 per ton to a higher amount.

Baptiste had proposed a new rate of $80, although an analysis shows that $82 per ton is fairer.

While the county will see perhaps more than $1.2 to $1.3 million in additional revenues from higher tipping fees, it will concurrently lose $673,000 in property tax revenues due to the 5 cent per $1,000 rate reduction.

Only homesteaders — those who own their own homes and live in them — will continue to pay the same rate.

The county is projected to collect $93 million in real property tax revenues. The county also will see large amounts of revenues from the highway fund, the sewer fund, a housing and community development fund and a housing revolving fund.

Bonds totaling $39 million will go toward a new fire station in north Kapa‘a town; a lateral expansion of the landfill; affordable housing; enhancements to Maluhia Road, the main thoroughfare leading to Koloa and Po‘ipu; improvements at the baseball field at the Lihu‘e Stadium; and $1 million to replace the burned-out Wailua Golf Course maintenance building.

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