Travel, overtime target of budget reductions

LIHUE — Some county departments may have to do more with less funding over the next year following a second round of budget cuts.

These cuts, passed by the Kauai County Council on the final day of preliminary budget deliberations, include a 17 percent reduction in future travel budgets across nine county departments, a 5 percent reduction in specific overtime costs for all county departments and a 2 percent reduction in county electricity costs — all of which amounts to a $333,558 cut in costs from Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s latest budget proposal submitted last week.

But these cuts and reductions, dovetailed with the approval of several budget earmarks for public projects later in the afternoon, generated a mixture of responses among some county officials.

One of the more complex cuts made during budget deliberations, those dealing with overtime expenses, generated the most concern among county officials who were split on how the cuts should be made.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s administration, however, reached an accord with some council members after agreeing to a 5 percent reduction in discretionary overtime — those made by employees who exceed their 40-hour work week pay — across all county departments except the Department of Public Works.

That department, according to preliminary budget documents, will receive a flat $2,500 reduction in overtime over the next fiscal year.

“We are all in agreement that we must move quickly toward a more sustainable budget,” Carvalho wrote Tuesday in an email. “We were open to taking additional reductions in travel and overtime because that leads to the goal of sustainability.”

But not everyone saw it that way.

Councilman Tim Bynum, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the measure, said he was concerned that important county programs, such as the Kauai Police Activities League, may be affected by the overtime cuts.

Another approved cut, proposed by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, is slated to cut $100,000 in the county’s general fund set aside for the Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain and improve public facilities at public parks and beaches.

While the rent from concession stands at Spouting Horn can be used to fund park maintenance and improvements islandwide, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo said money from that fund may not enough to able to support larger projects.

“I think by taking $100,000 still leaves about $164,000, which the parks department still has full use of at their discretion for emergencies or other instances,” Yukimura said about the cut, which passed by a 4-3 vote. “In terms of every department maximizing their resources and keeping to their budget, this is no different.” 

Councilmen Mason Chock, Sr., Ross Kagawa and Mel Rapozo cast the dissenting votes against the measure. Council Chair Jay Furfaro and Bynum, who cast silent votes, sided with the majority of council members who approved the cut.

The County Council also approved several budget earmarks in next year’s budget to fund several projects, including $23,925 for Office of Economic Development grants to support agriculture initiatives; $44,000 for the Office of Economic Development to further a study on tourism and various economic areas on Kauai like agriculture; $12,000 to create a pesticide testing program for beekeepers; and $40,000 in bond funds to benefit the revitalization of the Kapaa New Town Park skate area.

All told, budget earmarks added $79,925 in expenditures to the county’s operating budget.

Some county officials, however, say the earmarks are inappropriate at a time when the County Council has also chosen to decrease annual health benefits contributions for retired county employees by $1.5 million over the next fiscal year.

Doing so, they cautioned, may set the county budget back next year, when they must pay off the balance along with that year’s contributions.

A public hearing on the mayor’s revised budget is scheduled for the Kauai County Council’s May 21 public meeting, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Historic County Building’s Council Chambers. The seven-member board’s Committee of the Whole will also discuss their revisions to the mayor’s budget during the same meeting.

If passed next week, the final decision on the County Council’s revisions to the mayor’s budget will be taken up during their May 28 public meeting.

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