LIHUE — The Kauai County Council approved an operating budget of $218 million for fiscal year 2018-19, while the Capital Improvements Project Budget is set at $40 million.
The budget now goes to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who has 10 business days from May 31 to sign or reject the budget.
The mayor submitted a $214 million budget in March.
A key action taken by the council was an increase in real property taxes for vacation rentals and homes classified as residential investor properties. The increase is expected to generate $4.4 million in revenue for the county. About $2.7 million will be allocated to the Housing Development Fund for affordable housing projects.
The tax increase proposed by Councilmember Mason Chock is something Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura said she supported because it made sense to slightly increase the tax on second or third homes valued over $2 million and on vacation rentals to generate money to build affordable housing.
The sale of vacation rentals and highly priced second and third homes on Kauai, she said, is increasing the price of land and housing for local people.
“In the end, a compromise was struck where $2.7 million was appropriated for affordable housing and the balance went to restrooms for the soccer park at Vidinha Stadium and to replenish the reserve,” she said.
Yukimura said she wished the council would have put more money in the budget for affordable housing.
“We must accelerate our efforts at building affordable housing, defined as costing no more for rent or mortgage than 30 percent of a family’s household income,” she said.
Real property tax is estimated to generate $135 million in revenue for this fiscal year.
In the budget, the Department of Parks and Recreation received $725,000 for the construction of an ADA compliant comfort station at the Vidinha Stadium Soccer Fields. A proposal by Carvalho that would have added four new maintenance positions for the cleaning and maintaining of the restrooms was declined because councilmembers felt it was late in the mayor’s term to implement new staffing changes.
“With attention already paid to Blackpot, Lydgate and Poipu Beach Parks, I thought we should have additional help on the Westside for the major Westside Park at Salt Pond, so we added positions there and asked Parks to use management of existing personnel to address other needs,” Yukimura said.
A plan to make Kalena Park in Lihue safer and more user friendly, submitted by Get Fit Kauai and The Boys and Girls Club for the Youth Engagement and Action for Health, program, was supported by the council, who reduced funding for the Kapaa Armory improvements by $80,000, to implement these improvements.
The reserve fund will be replenished with nearly $1 million, while $22,085 was allocated to the Open Space, Public Access and Natural Preservation Fund. It’s county policy to set aside 30 percent of the previous year’s General Fund revenues for reserves and with the historic flooding that occurred in April, Yukimura said the disaster made it clear how wise this practice is.
Because the reserve is healthy, the county is able to easily appropriate monies for flood relief, without impairing normal County operations, she said.
The newly established General Excise Tax is projected to add $12.5 million to the budget for repairs and construction to the infrastructure, including islandwide road resurfacing and bridge maintenance and repairs.
Yukimura said though the GET added to their budget helped, she was disappointed that it did nothing to expand the Kauai Bus service. For years, Yukimura said she worked to push through the surcharge in order to expand the bus.
“The Mayor’s budget used only $160,000 of the $12.5 million for bus improvement, and that was three workers and a truck to clean bus stops. This will be helpful, but with $12.5 million, there was enough money for both road repair and expanding bus weekend service,” Yukimura said.
Grant in Aid funding of $500,000 for the Kauai Philippine Cultural Center that’s under construction was awarded, while $1 million in funding was granted to the Office of Economic Development in support of social services, including the YWCA’s Family Violence Shelter in the amount of $65,000, and their Sexual Assault Treatment program in the amount of $50,000. A one-time grant of $20,000 was awarded to Malama Pono Health Services for $20,000 for sexually transmitted disease testing funding.
Council Chair Mel Rapozo, Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa and Councilmembers Derek Kawakami, Mason Chock, Arthur Brun and Arryl Kaneshiro, did not respond to requests for comment on this article by press time Monday.
Bethany Freudenthal, Courts, Crime and County reporter, 652-7891 email@example.com