Inadequate cuts and consequences

I have read every word of recent TGI articles regarding the state of our county’s finances, the comments of the mayor and various councilmembers, and members of the administration. No one said the job was easy, or that it would be simple to fix the financial mismanagement and the cumulative impact of growth in unchecked spending. We often find that reality plays out differently from our plan. For example, to continue to belabor the loss of TAT revenue (this is the fourth year) is like continually crying over spilled milk. We no longer have the money so we need to cut the budget.

The administration is certainly heading in the right direction by seeking reductions in spending and overhead. However, I believe that this should be just a starting point for continued changes in the way the county does business. In my opinion, there has been a build up in infrastructure; many, many new people added to the payroll and not much to show for it, except for an inability to fund it. 

Yet, the mayor has made clear that he will not “seek any warm body reductions for as long as we can to achieve balance” as quoted by the county purchasing director.

Simply put, our government is being protected from the hardest decisions we have to make on a daily basis to bring our own budgets into “true balance,” based on “fiscal realities” and to make budgets “sustainable.”

To understand that the council and administration members have known that revenues have not been equal to or greater than expenses for five years running and have done nothing until now is, in my opinion, the height of ineptitude.

To be happy that reserve funds are not being used for the first time in five years means that everyone has acknowledged that they have been outspending their financial means! 

Let’s also remember that the county pays out millions in settlements that are not part of daily operating expenses (we only know of the public ones, not protected by confidentiality agreements). These also have to be funded in a “sustainable” budget. 

We will likely be saddled with more fees (increased vehicle weight tax again), with the policy speak that this will help fund road improvements. I’m sure we’ve heard this before. The continued request for the shell game of shifting voter approved funds from one place to the other to help finance general spending (proposed decrease in property taxes dedicated to open space and public access projects again). 

Lawmakers are now being lobbied to approve a .5 percent county GET surcharge. If we have learned anything, it is that more money doesn’t create better government, but it sure raises our cost of living on Kauai, again.

We need to demand more with less, better management practices, further reduced spending, cuts wherever necessary and a balanced budget every year. The county should be forced to live within its means. Period. 

Jeff Demma is a resident of Lihue.

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