A big mahalo for your continued support. I am excited to continue to serve the people of District 9 for another two years, and happy to continue to share with you monthly updates. As most of you are aware, my Council update had been absent to comply with campaign rules. With the campaign now over, we are able to reconvene our updates to you all. With that, here is our update of some of the happenings in the county.
MAYOR KIM’S $800 MILLION DISASTER RECOVERY REQUEST:
What has been in the papers very recently is Mayor Kim’s request to the State of Hawaii for funding to help our volcano eruption recovery effort. By any measure that is a huge amount of money. I must note that the County Council learned of this ask the same way you did; in the newspaper. Though the losses in housing and property are high, the long-term effects on our economy are even more concerning. Without a dynamic economy, we will not have the financial resources to take care of ourselves. A report from the Kohala Coast Resort Association showed $25 million worth of cancellations in May and June for rooms alone. This does not take into account the impact on restaurants, activities or even car rentals. While the State of Hawaii’s visitor industry has grown, our county has an estimated decrease by over 12 percent. These are the impacts that could be long reaching for the County of Hawaii. We will soon see what Mayor Kim’s request will produce.
COUNTY BUDGET 2018-2019 AND G.E. TAX UPDATE:
The May version of the budget for 2018-2019 was for $518 million. When the volcanic eruption started, the unknown of the future of our county and its finances was center stage. We lost a projected $5 million in real property tax collection. What this translated into is a proposed budget of $518 million with a $513 million revenue stream; the budget was therefore not balanced. In a dire situation, we did approve a 0.25 percent GET surcharge to balance our budget. The projected collections for that surcharge were $10 million and building. Our budget needed approximately $5 million to balance, leaving $5 million in projected surplus. The administration was quick to try and have it all appropriated. After a great deal of discussion at Council, I was able to convince my colleagues to hold off on appropriations and keep the funds in reserve until we know our financial obligations coming out of the lava flow, hurricane affect and flooding damage. Stay tuned.
VACATION RENTAL BILL 108 &UPCOMING PUBLIC MEETINGS:
This bill has been in the works for many months now. I, along with my Council colleagues have heard and addressed the many concerns regarding Bill 108, have spoken with the Planning Director separately and as a Council, and have sent the draft 4 of Bill 108 to the Planning Commission for them to address the numerous concerns of our island residents – both for and against the language of the bill, and to provide their position and recommendations. It is still on the drawing board. Please know that we will continually address the Department of Planning as to some sort of oversight of this process as it moves forward. This topic will be on the agenda for the upcoming Leeward Planning Commission meeting to be held at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20 in Kona. Public testimony will be taken at that time. After the review process through the Planning Commission, the bill and its recommendations will be sent back to the Council for further review and editing in order to produce a balanced piece of legislation that will benefit our island community as a whole.
WAIKOLOA WILDFIRE COMMUNITY FORUM:
At 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 in the Waikoloa School cafeteria, the Waikoloa Village Association will host a Wildfire Community Forum to discuss observations and comments on the recent Waikoloa wildfire that burned approximately 18,000 acres of land. The director of Hawaii Civil Defense, Pohakuloa Training Area’s Lt. Colonel Borce, representatives from Hawaii County Fire and Police, CERT and representatives from Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization will be available to take questions from the audience, as well as share information on how we can all be prepared for future wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters.
It continues to be a great privilege to serve as your councilman and I look forward to our future together.