Voters may get say on road repairs

LIHUE — Kauai residents may decide how they want the county to pay for road repair.

During the Kauai County Council meeting Wednesday, the council unanimously voted to approve a resolution that proposed putting a County Roads Resurfacing and Reconstruction Backlog Fund on the charter, for residents to vote on in November.

Council members Gary Hooser, JoAnn Yukimura and Mason Chock did not attend the meeting, and were excused from the vote.

As per the resolution, a minimum 1 percent of revenue generated from real property tax and 6 percent of revenue generated from transient accommodations tax will go into a County Roads Resurfacing and Reconstruction Backlog Fund.

Because an increase in the General Excise Tax was denied, the charter amendment is an attempt to fund $100 million worth of backlogged road repairs.

It was introduced by Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i, who originally proposed that $1 million from both the transient accommodations tax and the real property tax go into the County Roads Resurfacing and Reconstruction Backlog Fund.

“During our discussions on GET and the budget, and looking for ways to fund the backlogged roads and reconstruction, I had the idea to allow the voters to commit the administration and the council to allocate monies from real property tax and the transient accommodations tax. This is my way of letting the voters dictate to us to take care of this backlog, without instituting any kind of new tax,” he said. “It’s not enough to address the backlog, but it’s a start. And is something that can be added to vehicle weight and fuel taxes.”

Councilman Ross Kagawa said he supported the measure, but wanted firmer language to specify the monies used in the fund can only be used for road repair.

“When it comes to bells and whistles, like adding planters and crosswalks, the administration is all gung-ho, but are hesitant when it comes to road repair,” he said. “This is one way for the public to show they want the roads taken care of.”

Council Chair Mel Rapozo suggested changing a flat dollar amount to a percentage, in case a financial disaster hits, and the county is locked into allocating a dollar amount to a specific fund.

“We could get really hurt, should real property tax or transient accommodations tax should decrease. Because we’d be forced to divert that dollar amount from those accounts,” he said.

Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro hopes the resolution will further the discussion.

“Ultimately, roads are a priority, and we’re trying to address it,” he said. “For me, this going to spark discussion and more solutions.”

Some Kauai residents support the charter.

“It’s better than increased taxes,” said Norma Doctor Sparks, who is running for county council.

Sparks suggested the county require an annual report from Public Works about which roads have been repaired and what their plan for the following year will be.

Lonnie Sykos said the wording must be specific.

“I suggest you put more work into the language, so you have the results you intend to have,” Sykos said.

Matt Bernabe also said he supports the measure.

“I appreciate the real effort to take away the burden of taxing the public while solving the problem,” he said.

The council will hold a public hearing on the resolution on July 6. It will discussed in council on July 20. It will need to go through two readings and requires a super majority of 5 votes to be put on the ballot.


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