NAWILIWILI — After weeks of departmental reviews, the Kaua‘i County Council’s Committee of the Whole has started making its final decisions on the mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012.
“It’s not time for discussion, it’s time for decision-making,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said, steering the session Monday at Council Chambers in Nawiliwili.
“Obviously, if we can’t get to a decision point, we’re just going to accept the March 15 submittal as the budget and go from there,” he said.
While the order of the day may have been decision-making, more discussion took place and only a few items ended up being voted upon.
The largest last-minute addition approved Monday was a new deputy prosecutor at $101,066 plus over $55,000 in benefits. This position would be in addition to another deputy prosecutor — to be funded at $80,000 plus benefits — that the FY12 budget proposes to come from a currently dollar-funded law clerk position.
The council approved the position on a 5-2 vote, with Council members Tim Bynum and JoAnn Yukimura voting against it.
The addition of a new deputy prosecutor was dwarfed by an eleventh-hour $350,000 request from Bynum to add seven part-time administrative support positions to ensure each of the council members have a personal assistant.
Bynum said the part-time positions could eventually become full-time, but the proposal got swept under the rug after a 2-5 vote. Besides Bynum, Yukimura also voted for the proposal, saying the extra help would increase the council’s professionalism and decision-making.
Despite all of the council members agreeing extra help would be welcomed, the measure was voted down.
“For each of us to have a dedicated staff person … it’s a luxury we can’t afford right now,” Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i said.
“I’m looking at this budget with a different pair of glasses,” Councilman Mel Rapozo said. “I’m looking for ways to reduce. I’m very uncomfortable with increasing, because it almost seems like it’s Christmas here today.”
However, council members will get some of the extra help they all agreed they need. The council has a vacant full-time secretary position soon-to-be filled, and on Monday the members unanimously approved an additional full-time secretary position at $35,064 plus almost $12,000 in benefits.
The compromise on two positions to serve six council members came from Furfaro, who as chair has his own secretary.
Last year a $100,000 Washington, D.C. lobbyist position was slashed from the current budget. This year the administration proposed in its supplemental budget to reinstate funding, but only at $50,000.
Furfaro’s request to focus the meeting more on decision-making rather than on discussion apparently touched a nerve for some council members.
“I found out about this expenditure of the lobbyist on Friday afternoon, and here we are Monday morning,” Bynum said. “We don’t know why the mayor decided to put it in, what his intentions are.”
The position was a request from Furfaro to the administration.
Despite questioning the last minute addition, Bynum said he supports the lobbyist position.
“To do due diligence, we need time to understand it,” he said.
The council deferred making a decision on it until today, when Councilman Dickie Chang — after a request from Yukimura — is supposed to bring a list of accomplishments from the council’s former lobbyist in the nation’s capital.
Rapozo has supported the lobbyist position, backing it up with the argument that with the end of federal earmarks it will be tough to get money from the federal government.
“Often times the window of opportunity opens and closes,” Rapozo said. “We need someone in Washington, D.C.”
Rapozo was more concerned with the filling of 12 dollar-funded positions in this year’s budget, which by his account will add approximately $700,000.
“It was quite disturbing to see the amount of positions,” he said.
Rapozo’s concerns prompted him to propose the removal of dollar-funded positions from the budget, except those related to public safety.
Kuali‘i questioned a $57,000 grant coordinator position taken from the budget to make way for a mayor’s executive assistant position at $96,000.
The administration is also proposing creating mayor’s administrative aide position at $73,044. This position is currently dollar-funded and titled as commission support clerk.
Additionally, the executive assistant to the mayor, a position occupied by Beth Tokioka, would get a project management subtitle with a $2,000 raise.
Following Rapozo’s concerns, the council postponed discussion with the county attorney to possibly include a proviso in the language related to changing the description of dollar-funded positions and re-describing fully funded positions.
Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura proposed a transportation planner position at $70,000. The planner/engineer would work with the Public Works Department on projects related to multi-modal transportation plans and road maintenance for Complete Streets designs, plus take part in the state land transportation plan update. The position would also work in the implementation of CIPs related to transportation. Decision on the new position was deferred till today.
Kuali‘i said so far the council has identified additions to the budget. Furfaro said after the expenses are all laid out, the council will look at revenues and subtract from the budget if necessary.
Budget decision-making continues at 9 a.m. today at the Nawiliwili Council Chambers. Go to www.kauai.gov for more information.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.