LIHU‘E — After live music and a group singalong, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. delivered his annual State of the County address Friday at the Lihu‘e Civic Center in the Pi‘ikoi Building.
“This is my fourth State of the County address and each one has given me a chance to reflect upon all of the wonderful and amazing things that we as a community accomplish during the year,” said Carvalho, reading from his prepared statement.
After acknowledging attendees, comprised primarily of county department heads and state and county elected officials, he took a moment to reflect on the recent severe weather events that caused flooding, collapsed roadways, hail, tornadoes, property damage and one death.
“Somehow, as we always do, we pull through and we witness the amazing spirit of Kaua‘i that brings us together in the most challenging of times,” Carvalho said. “We know that we can weather any storm that comes our way.”
The mayor then proceeded to highlight the achievements of his administration over the last 12 months and provided an overview of his fiscal year 2013 budget his office submitted to Kaua‘i County Council the evening prior.
Energy and sustainability
The administration’s newly created, three-man Sustainability Team is working to “green” county operations, including new operations policies to be implemented within the next few months, he said.
Photovoltaic retrofits have been completed at the Civic Center and at the Kaiakea Fire Station, and the county is procuring additional solar for the Police/Civil Defense/Prosecuting Attorney complex.
Last year, county Sustainability Manager Glenn Sato arranged funding for and purchased five Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, and 10 charging stations are being installed.
“The performance contract for the Wastewater Division is well underway, with a plan of action, which will save significant amounts of dollars and energy, due within the next few months,” said Carvalho, adding that an invitation for bids for a second performance contract for other county facilities is in development.
“We all agreed last year that the county needs greater depth and focus on human resources management,” he said. “An internal taskforce has been working throughout the year to research and develop a plan for the formation of a true human resources operation within the Department of Personnel Services.”
Such an operation can be developed without creating new positions, he said, by moving personnel performing human-resource-related functions within various departments into Personnel Services.
The plan is to transfer nine employees from other departments and add them to the group of nine currently in Personnel Services to create a newly restructured department of 18 employees. The target period for full operation is October 2012.
Endangered sea birds
Carvalho said there were no reported takes on county property during the fledgling season of Sept. 15 to Dec. 15 following efforts to comply with the terms of a probation agreement with the Department of Justice.
“Protecting endangered seabirds is our responsibility and became a huge focus for us this year,” he said. “This was a concerted effort of many agencies, under the direction of the County Attorney’s Office, and we are proud to have made such strides in just one year.”
The Planning Department is in the process procuring consultants to conduct general plan technical studies, the Koloa-Po’ipu-Kalaheo and Lihu‘e development plans are underway, a long-range planning supervisor has been hired and transportation planner position was created in the current budget, he said.
The county’s Purchasing Agency is continuing its effort to go “paperless,” he said. Its electronic procurement system allows for solicitations, advertisements, bidding information and notices of auctions. Its electronic contract execution and distribution system eliminates the need for multiple copies of large documents, he said.
Capital Improvement Projects
The county “scrubbed” its capital projects list last year, the mayor said, and prioritized projects addressable within 18 months.
“Our personnel, particularly in Public Works and Parks and Recreation, have worked extremely hard to keep the funded projects moving and on track,” Carvalho said. “I am proud to report that of the more than 100 projects on our approved CIP list for fiscal year 2012, more than 80 percent are either complete, in progress or will be in procurement by September.”
Holo Holo 2020 initiatives
The mayor said his Holo Holo initiatives that have advanced during the past year include:
— A master plan for the Lima Ola, a 75 acre affordable housing development in ‘Ele‘ele.
— Completion of the Pa‘anau affordable housing project in Koloa.
— An environmental impact statement for a new landfill and resource recovery park underway.
— Final stages of an Environmental Assessment and feasibility study for a residential adolescent drug treatment facility.
— Commercial rules for parks adopted and being implemented.
— Condemnation proceedings initiated on land adjacent to Black Pot beach park in Hanalei.
— Two Kaua‘i Bus shelters and the 20-day “Free Ride” promotion.
— Sunshine Market rules governing value-added products are currently out for public comment.
— Upgrades to Po‘ipu and Lydgate Beach Park bathroom facilities are underway and more frequent cleaning.
— Groundbreaking of the Lihi-to-Lydgate portion of Ke Ala Hele Makalae and construction now underway for the Kawaihau spur.
Carvalho said the county has been working hard to involve the community every step of the way through outreach to organized community associations and through public meetings at neighborhood centers.
“This effort has created an amazing dialogue and our departments have been following up quickly on issues that are raised during these meetings,” he said.
FY 2013 Budget framework
The local economy is still struggling and resources are scarce, Carvalho said, but there are signs of recovery, even though jobless numbers are not rebounding and a “climate of declining revenues” continues.
The county is holding the line, he said, working toward stabilization and restoring many of the cuts of the last three years.
“Overall, our operating expenses will increase next year by $10 million,” Carvalho said. “Most of that is due to fixed cost increases — namely payroll, debt service, utilities and fuel.”
He emphasized budgeting conservatively, managing resources more effectively, reducing overtime, adjusting departmental budgets based on past years’ actual expenditures and minimizing travel costs, as strategies for FY13.
“We are spending down special funds to the greatest extent possible in order to lessen the need for subsidies from the general fund,” he said. “We are reducing our reserve fund to a level of 10 to 15 percent of our budget, which is in line with generally accepted accounting practices.”
Carvalho is proposing funding for 18 positions that the county funded with $1 last year.
“But instead of just filling the positions as they were left, we have re-evaluated each one and determined if the operational need still fits the position description,” he said. “In some cases positions are being redefined or moved to a different department or both. Some positions are also being downward allocated.”
Carvalho said the county will be investing heavily in new equipment over the next fiscal year. Purchases are to include a new police and fire vehicles, a forklift, lift truck, excavators, “bush whackers” and wood chipping machines
“Our workers simply can’t do the job if they don’t have the right equipment,” he said.
The budget includes $5 million for new equipment.
“… however, because we will be using lease agreements to acquire most of the items, the impact to the fiscal year 2013 budget will be a little over $1 million in debt service,” Carvalho said.
The ‘lapse factor’
“One new initiative is what we call the ‘lapse factor,’ Carvalho said. “Over the past two fiscal years, departments have lapsed millions of budgeted but unspent dollars.”
He said a calculation of unspent dollars lapsed per department, averaged for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, revealed a “lapse factor” ranging from 1 percent at the Office of Economic Development to a high of 32 percent at the Elections Division.
“Because of this exercise, we have asked departments to reduce their overall budgets by roughly 25 percent of the average amount of funds lapsed for the past two fiscal years,” the mayor said.
The Planning Department lapsed 13 percent of its annual budget, or $368,000, in FY 2010, and 17 percent, or $430,000, in FY 2011, he said.
“Using a factor of 25 percent of the average of funds lapsed for the two years, you come up with a reduction of $99,862 that Planning has been asked to absorb for fiscal year 2013,” Carvalho said.
“These reductions have been taken by most agencies in this budget submittal. If applied to all departments and divisions of the county, this initiative could save up to $2.7 million overall and $1.8 million in general fund dollars. It will also start us on an important path toward budgeting more accurately in the years to come.”