LIHUE — Kauai was the first county in the state to pass its Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget.
The Kauai County Council voted 6-1 to approve $201 million for the next fiscal year on May 12. Oahu, Maui and the Big Island councils are expected to make decisions on their respective budgets by mid-June.
Highlights of Kauai County budget, which is the highest in a decade, include reducing the mayor’s original proposal by $2 million without increasing property taxes.
But to do so, about $1.5 million will have to be taken from the reserve fund to make up the difference in revenue that would have been generated by increasing property taxes.
Councilmembers also cut the auditor’s office, removed $100,000 to pay for performance audits, $400,000 in overtime for the Kauai Police Department and several programs for the Office of Economic Development.
The budget also allots $150,000 for improvements to the Kauai Veterans Center, which will pay for repairs to the roof, and $22,000 to buy a new air conditioning unit for the Waimea Theatre.
In March, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. announced a proposed operating budget of $204 million for FY 2017-18. On May 5, a supplemental budget brought the budget down to $203.5 million.
The operating budget also proposed a 19-cent increase in real property taxes for road repair and maintenance projects.
City and County of Honolulu
On Oahu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is proposing a $2.33 billion operating budget for FY 2017-18, which is $57 million more than the current fiscal year.
The increase is due to a rise in collective bargaining, benefits and retirement.
The largest chunk of the budget — 19.93 percent, is for police, fire, ambulance, ocean safety and other public safety programs, which is approximately $464 million. Closely following is debt service, which accounts for 19 percent, or $440 million. Included in debt service is interest and principal payments of $284 million for general obligation bonds and $156 million for sewer revenue bonds.
The budget focuses on “core city services, repairs and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure” and finding solutions to homelessness.
Honolulu is not proposing an increase in taxes.
Caldwell’s priorities also include repaving, reconstructing and preserving roads, enhancing bus service, maintaining sewer infrastructure, finding solutions to build a better rail and improving parks. The administration is proposing $1.4 million to continue an initiative called “Year of the Parks.”
When it comes to public transportation, the operating budget is allotting $250.1 million for bus services, which is a $4.7 million increase from the previous year.
Another $2.6 million is allotted for 29,657 hours of additional bus service to address overcrowding and traffic congestion.
A decision must be made by June 15.
On Maui, Mayor Alan Arakawa proposed a $563.5 million operating budget, which is a 3 percent increase from the current budget.
Arakawa said the budget “aligns resources with community priorities” like affordable housing. That’s why the administration is proposing $9.1 million be set aside for the Affordable Housing Fund, which would allow the county to acquire lands for affordable rental housing projects.
The budget also provides $3 million to the Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources and Scenic Views Preservation Fund; $24.8 million in grant subsidies to support important social welfare programs, economic development initiatives and veterans programs; and allots $34.1 million for drainage and road projects.
The administration also proposes closing Waiehu Municipal Golf Course by the end of December, which operates at a $3 million loss in tax dollars.
The budget was at first reading May 19.
On the Big Island, Mayor Harry Kim proposed a $491 million budget, which is about 6 percent higher than the current budget.
The budget includes an increase in fuel tax from 8 cents to 19 cents, $600,000 to replace police cars, and an additional $600,000 for the island’s bus system.
The budget also proposes adding six new positions, including two deputy prosecuting attorneys, a real property valuation analyst and special program coordinator for the Housing Department.
The proposed budget also asks for a 7-cent increases in real property taxes.
The council is expected to make a decision on the budget by June 5.