LIHU‘E — A bill that would appropriate $9 million in county Transient Accommodation Tax revenues passed first reading at the meeting of the Kaua‘i County Council yesterday.
Roughly $8.385 million of the revenues would be added to the county’s general fund, while the nearly $615,000 remainder would be used to, among other things: purchase new equipment and supplies, hire three new positions to oversee taxation, renovate offices at the Lihu‘e Civic Center and increase pay for two hourly positions.
Bill No. 2480 passed its first reading unanimously during the County Council’s meeting on Wednesday after being introduced by Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro, by request of the administration.
County Managing Director Mike Dahilig told the council that actual TAT revenues would likely be higher, though actual revenues were “on par” with previous expectations. The new 3% tax that went into effect on Oct. 1 applies throughout the tourism industry.
“We characterize the $9 million figure as a conservative estimate,” Dahilig told the council. “We should be getting about $9 million and change.”
The county seeks to earmark $150,000 for the replacement of Kaua‘i Fire Department’s Brush Truck No. 6. KFD Fire Chief Steven Goble said in a written statement that the vehicle, a 2009 Ford F-550, suffered a major mechanical failure two years ago and has needed replacing since.
Goble said the brush truck, which is used for wildfire suppression, was previously in use on the leeward side of the island.
“(Brush trucks) are specialized apparatus requiring a water tank and fire pump, tool storage, and off-road capability,” Goble said. “These smaller trucks are effective tools for firefighting in challenging terrain such as the canyons out west and other areas with limited access. These vehicles also carry equipment for search and rescue, medical emergencies, and ocean response.”
Another $18,000 would be allocated to the Ocean Safety Bureau for the purchase of a replacement jet ski after one of the Bureau’s watercrafts suffered a hull separation and engine damage. According to Goble, that was the second such craft to suffer a mechanical failure.
“Simultaneously, another rescue craft suffered a motor failure,” Goble said. “The department was able to salvage the motor from the first ski and place it in the second ski, eliminating the need to purchase an additional jet ski. The watercraft would be replaced with a make and model similar to our existing fleet that meets our requirements for ocean rescue activities.
The bill would also provide $97,551 in funding to pay nine months of wages for three new employees at the county Department of Finance — $28,503 each for two tax clerks and $40,545 for one tax supervisor.
Adjusted to represent an annual salary, the tax clerks would be earning roughly $38,000 per year. In response to a question about whether that amounted to a living wage, county Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama said that the clerks’ rate of pay would be $18.27 per hour, which is above minimum wage, and employee benefits would add another 85% to their total compensation, or an adjusted $33.80 per hour.
For context, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts the living wage in Kaua‘i County at $18.79 per hour for a single adult with no children, while the state’s 2019 Housing Planning Study put the wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom rental at a fair market rate at $29.06 per hour.
The hourly wages of two positions — one ocean safety officer at OSB and one parking enforcement clerk at the Kaua‘i Police Department — would also be raised by one dollar under Bill No. 2840.
The bill is scheduled for a public hearing at the council’s Nov. 17 meeting. Information on how to offer testimony can be found at kauai.gov/council.