LIHU‘E — When the Kaua‘i County Council received the fiscal year 2021 supplemental budget in early May, it included about $10.7 million in cuts from the initial budget proposal in March.
This left a proposed $250,777,323 operating budget and capital improvements project budget of $33,642,237.
At its meeting on Friday, the council proposed one more change to the supplemental budget, a cut of about $31,000.
Since the initial budget, the Mayor’s Office proposed moving a project manager role within the Department of Public Works to the Mayor’s Office as deputy managing director. This move was proposed with a $31,566 salary increase.
The scope of the job would go from overseeing DPW projects to project management across the county, focusing on ensuring county directives and initiatives are met on large-scale contracts, Managing Director Michael Dahilig said during the meeting.
Kaua‘i County is the only island without a deputy managing director.
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa raised his concerns, providing an alternative to keep the move but remove the raise.
“Now is not the time,” Kagawa said, noting that many residents are facing layoffs and furloughs, and there are lingering questions about revenue streams.
Fellow councilmembers agreed, and voted unanimously to renumber the position from No. 9051, Deputy Managing Director, to Position No. E-9051, to reflect the exempt status of the position, and revert the position title back to a Program Admin Officer II at $91,752. The savings will be sent to the Unassigned Fund Balance, which will reduce the use of the fund balance.
Aside from this cut, the council did not vote on any other reductions or additions to the budget. Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i and others noted this was primarily due to the Mayor’s Office’s diligence in making cuts on its own.
Unlike budget seasons in the past, the council and mayor’s administration primarily worked remotely, practicing social distancing, canceling in-person departmental reviews and question sessions.
“COVID-19 has and will have a huge impact on how we do business going into the future,” Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said. “In the same regard, the challenges that we have faced will also not disappear. This includes our deteriorating roads and bridges and other deferred-maintenance needs.”
Part of these needs include a $300,000 project which Dahilig explained as a proactive approach to understanding possible landfill infrastructure as space runs out at Kekaha Landfill.
“(We have) eight years to figure out how to deal with municipal solid waste on the island,” Dahilig said.
Kaneshiro also noted affordable housing, maintaining technological upgrades in the future so situations like the state’s inability to process unemployment insurance claims, and the upkeep of parks need to be prioritized in the future.
Resident Gregory Basilio called into the council to provide public testimony about the supplemental budget’s CIP budget, which struck the skateboard and Hanapepe Town Park improvements, a $350,000 line item. He said he had attended meetings where this park was discussed and was disappointed to see it cut.
“It’s a healthy activity that works with mental and physical health,” Basilio said in his testimony. “As a homeowner with children, I really want to support this.”
Dahilig said there was $400,000 for skatepark construction, and that can be discussed at a later period.
“If there is a need to enhance efforts, we’ll have those discussions with the council,” Dahilig said. “I think at this point we wanted to keep things as level as possible.”
Kaneshiro acknowledged in his opening address that forthcoming supplemental money bills may happen in the future as revenue outlooks become clearer over time and money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is allocated.
The administration proposed an operating budget of $261.1 million and a capital improvement projects budget of $34.4 million in March. Through cuts on travel, trainings, a hiring freeze and vehicle purchases, the county was able to come down to $250 million.
“Our world remains fluid and dynamic,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said via a virtual address to the council. “The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to force us to make operational and financial adjustments to conditions that evolve by the day. Our supplementary budget attempts to adapt to this volatility to anticipate arising trends that are taking place.”
A second and final reading of the budget will be held on Wednesday, June 3. The next council meeting is Wednesday, May 20, at 8:30 a.m., and can be viewed at kauai.gov/Webcast-Meetings.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.