Tax revenues more than predicted in March
by Nathan Eagle – THE GARDEN ISLAND
Kaua‘i County learned this week that it has more money than expected for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, and must soon decide how to spend it.
Property tax revenues came in $2.2 million greater than forecast in Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s March 14 proposed $155.7 million operating budget.
The administration’s $158 million supplemental operating budget, filed near its deadline Thursday evening, proposes using the extra cash to create new initiatives, raise wages, expand services and replace aging equipment.
After undergoing a three-week departmental budget review process and holding a public hearing on Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council will enter decision-making mode on Monday morning at the Historic County Building. The seven-member legislative body also set aside Tuesday.
“The additions in our revised budget support our commitment to public health and safety, caring for our community and supporting our workforce,” Baptiste said in his supplemental budget communication to the council. “We have listened to your deliberations and have incorporated our shared ideas in plans for the coming year. In closing, we humbly ask for your support and continued partnership in serving the needs of the people of Kaua‘i.”
In addition to a jump in the operating budget, the administration’s supplemental also shows a hike for capital improvement programs. The CIP budget was $61.2 million in March and is now proposed at $65.2 million.
The mayor proposes using this increased funding in part for an $850,000 Lihu‘e Development Plan, $150,000 for community gardens, $350,000 for veterans cemetery upgrades and $100,000 in host community benefits for Kekaha.
Councilman Jay Furfaro said staff is in the process of breaking down the March and May proposed budgets to generate a pluses and minuses list that the council will use next week to aid decision-making.
Baptiste said yesterday that the county has “a multitude of needs that have to be prioritized.”
Decisions this year were based on revenues available, prioritization by the administration and input from the council, he said.
Among the changes contained in the supplemental budget is a $425,000 proposal to expand bus service with new routes during peak traffic times and $30,000 to buy 200 annual bus passes for county employees.
“The Transportation Agency will work with the community and the Transit Advisory Committee to determine what would work best in regards to the expansion of bus services,” county spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.
Residents have spent weeks campaigning for a significant increase to the county transportation budget, including hours of testimony on Wednesday at the public hearing.
“I was really pleased to see additional funds for the bus … I wish we could do more,” Councilman Tim Bynum said.
The extra property tax revenues were also used to raise by several hundred dollars the salaries for department heads and other top positions.
The supplemental budget proposes $14,000 in additional support for the Civil Air Patrol, which alerts people of an impending disaster such as a tsunami.
It also proposes buying an alternative daily cover to maximize airspace and extend the life of the Kekaha landfill. The cover would be placed over each day’s accumulation of trash instead of dirt.
Other changes to the proposed operating budget include:
• An additional $100,000 for Meals on Wheels
• An additional $150,000 in administrative support for the Housing Agency
• Two more public safety positions
• A $700,000 increase to the employee health fund
• Two dollar-funded positions to support CIP project management
“I think the mayor has been responsive to a lot of concerns raised in the budget hearings and also to the public,” Bynum said. “But it’s a little scary with the economic condition we’re in to spend more money.”
The administration proposed increasing the debt service $400,000 for the anticipated 2009 bond issue. The mayor’s supplemental budget message highlights 10 possible projects for consideration:
• Acrow bridges
• Dams and reservoirs
• Energy sustainability plan
• Hanapepe Stadium
• Koloa-Po‘ipu Area Circula-
• Playground equipment
• Roller hockey rink covering
• Shearwater shielding
• Skateboard parks
• Soccer fields
“We have to provide positive alternatives for our children,” Baptiste said. “They are our most valuable resource and should be given as many positive alternatives as we can give them.”
To view the supplemental budget in its entirety, visit the Council Clerk’s Office at the Historic County Building in Lihu‘e.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or email@example.com