Council reduces proposed budget

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council recently trimmed $350,000 from the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget.

The proposed budget, which begins July 1, is about $190 million. After Thursday and Friday discussions, council members came up with $355,160 in cuts, said Yvette Sahut, legislative assistant.

That money would instead be appropriated to the highway fund for road resurfacing projects, Sahut said.

“It’s about what we need versus what’s possible,” said Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i, who originally proposed to cut five county positions. “It’s about seriously looking at scaling back the size of this county by eliminating the positions we don’t need.”

The cuts include reducing overtime for the police and fire departments by 5 percent, cutting funding for Office of Economic Development projects like energy sustainability and the climate action plan, cutting funding for grant-in-aid projects and denying a funding request from the YMCA for pool repairs.

The council also voted 4-3 to support a budget-cutting measure that eliminated the council services administrator and electronic equipment repair electrician positions.

Those positions have been have been vacant for over two years, said Kuali’i, who introduced the proposal.

“I’m doing this for the people and fighting for their interest,” he said.

Council members Gary Hooser, Ross Kagawa, Kuali’i and Mel Rapozo voted in support of the proposal.

But Lyle Tabata, acting engineer for the Public Works Department, said the electronic repair electrician position is needed, and the department is in constant recruitment.

Currently, the department is using overtime because it doesn’t have enough resources, Tabata said.

“We always hope someone will apply,” he said.

It’s also harder to create the positions once they are lost, Tabata added.

Another position — an engineering technician — was also budgeted, even though it has not been filled for several years.

Kuali’i proposed eliminating that position as well. But Tabata said the department wants to keep it so when the number of projects on the island increases, the department has someone to head them.

But Rapozo said if the department has been operating this long without those positions, they’re not needed. He also voiced concerns about those approved positions, morphing into a different job, which didn’t have the approval of the council.

Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro, who voted against the budget cut along with council members JoAnn Yukimura and Mason Chock, said it was a matter of trust.

The next step for the budget is in the Budget and Finance Committee on May 24, where the council formally approves the changes, Sahut said.

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