LIHU‘E — About a month after Mayor Derek Kawakami submitted a supplemental fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, the Kaua‘i County Council accepted a $250,745,757 Operating Budget and a Capital Improvement Project Budget of $33,642,237 on Wednesday.
But it wasn’t without a lengthy discussion regarding feral cat control.
The Kaua‘i Humane Society stopped feral cat intake earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but had plans to stop their service later this year.
KHS previously took feral-cat surrenders and charged $90 to take unlicensed feral cats that were brought to the shelter for the sole purpose of euthanasia. KHS was not contracted specifically for feral cat control, KHS Executive Director Mirah Horowitz, said in an email earlier this year.
“As a policy matter, KHS has decided that in FY21, we will not admit animals for the sole purpose of euthanasia, unless such euthanasia is medically required in the case of a seriously sick or injured dog or cat,” Horowitz said via email in April.
The county has a Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan that allows for nighttime lighting. One of the requirements for this is an Incidental Take Permit which requires the county to mitigate bird predators, like feral cats. The harassment of an endangered bird could result in the county being federally fined.
Since KHS is stepping away from feral cat intake, the county budgeted $50,000 for a feral cat program.
At its meeting yesterday, the council received remote oral testimonies, 30 voicemails and 195 written testimonies both for and against the county budgeting feral cat control. The majority were received in the 24 hours leading up to the meeting.
The county is still working out the details of its new feral cat control. “We do not necessarily have a list (of potential providers) but are aware of providers that can meet the need,” the county’s Managing Director Michael Dahilig said.
The county has looked into trap-neuter-release programs, but the problem is establishing a containment process of the cats so they are unable to endanger birds. Dahilig said the county is not in the financial position to create a cat sanctuary at this time.
Regarding KHS involvement, Vice Chair Ross Kagawa noted that this is an entity that has the specialty to help. “If the Humane Society could play a bigger role like they use to, I encourage that,” Kagawa said.
Councilmember Mason Chock agreed. “While it may be a philosophical perspective that the KHS may have … it does seem to me that it does fit within their mission to address this concern.”
At this stage, the county could not amend the budget, only vote in favor or against the overall budget.
In the document submitted in March, the administration proposed an operating budget of $261.1 million and CIP budget of $34.4 million.
“This budget really was funded during uncertain times,” Councilmember Felicia Cowden said. While she missed open discussions with department heads, she expressed her gratitude to their work this budget season.
“As the administration made every effort to limit the amount of adjustments between the March and May budget submittals, we freely recognize some profound changes reflect and are predominantly necessitated by the issues related to COVID-19 response and an anticipated lengthy recovery,” Kawakami said in his May supplemental memo.
This balanced budget reflects no furloughs, layoffs or raised residential tax rates, Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i noted, thanking the administration’s work.
Many of the cuts the Mayor’s administration made were directed on travel, trips to conferences, trainings, a hiring freeze and vehicle purchases save for critical requests for solid waste.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.