On June 28 at the Mayoral Forum, both Derek Kawakami and Mel Rapozo were asked directly if they were going support the affordable housing resolution proposed by JoAnn Yukimura. The resolution, if passed on Wednesday, would appear on the fall ballot giving the voters an opportunity to decide whether or not 3 percent of the existing real property tax (about $4.3 million) should be used for affordable housing on Kauai. The resolution does not propose any increase in real property taxes.
Both mayoral candidates said they would NOT be supporting the affordable housing resolution. Both candidates claim, in their campaigns, to care about affordable housing. Do they really care if they are not willing to let voters decide on the proposed charter amendment? Both candidates cited lack of money as the problem and committing 3 percent to affordable housing would cause budget problems.
This is inconsistent with the record established when the last budget was passed. In the last budget session, vacation rental property tax was increased, adding more than $4 million to the 2018-19 budget year. (May 30 County Council meeting.)
The annual 3 percent commitment would create a fund that would grow and become a source of credit and seed money for other private public partnerships like the one recently finalized for 134 units in Koloa.
During the budget meetings this year, the council had a windfall of $12 million, six months of the new ½ percent increase in the General Excise Tax (GET). Next year they’ll get double that amount as there will be 12 months of the new ½ percent GET. There were three one-time funding awards in the budget: $750,000 for restrooms at Vidinha Stadium, replenishment of the Open Space Fund and a replenishment of the Emergency Fund used to cover flood costs.
There are excesses in other areas. Monies are allocated for salaries of job positions the county has not filled. Some have been vacant for over four years but continue to be funded each year. At the end of December, the money for these unfilled positions from the prior tax year is returned to the county as a surplus. The head of the Department of Public Works was allocated more funds than he even requested. The Mayor’s Office has 17 employees, as does Human Resources; this seems like overkill.
Over the last 10 years, the population of Kauai has grown by less than 2 percent annually. The county government has grown by 7 percent annually. To make matters worse, during this last budget session, our mayor gave county employees two additional administration days off with pay. The mayor’s rationale was that they hadn’t gotten any additional paid days off in several years. As it is, between sick days, federal holidays, Hawaiian holidays, vacations and administration days, the county employees get approximately two months off with pay per year.
In the budget the council funded $1.2 million for affordable golf. I have a problem with affordable golf being funded before affordable housing. Does the affordable golfing rate need to be so low? I know many well-to-do men that golf at the county golf course. Maybe there should be a sliding scale for those that qualify. Only those who truly can’t afford golfing will want to bother with filling out the necessary paperwork to receive the lowest rate.
It appears there is plenty of money to cover the 3 percent for affordable housing if they quit growing the government and thinned out the number of employees by attrition and eliminating the nearly 100 job positions funded but unfilled.
Send your favorite councilmembers an email letting them know you want them to approve the affordable housing resolution so that you get the opportunity to vote on it. When it comes time to vote for the next mayor, remember who wants you to have the right to vote on funding affordable housing and who doesn’t.
Eileen Kechloian is a resident of Koloa.