$35M Hurricane Lane hits council budget plans

  • Vehicles line up on Ane Keohokalole Highway to turn at its terminus at Hina Lani Street in Kailua-Kona in March. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Two Kona road projects and an express Kona-Hilo bus route face delays because of new expenses created by Hurricane Lane.

The County Council put its final stamp of approval Wednesday on a revised budget reallocating the proceeds of $10 million the county anticipates receiving this fiscal year from a quarter-cent surcharge on the state general excise tax that starts Jan. 1.

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Struck from the immediate budget was $1.5 million for Oneo Lane and the Ane Keohokalole extension, as well as $1.6 million to expand Hele-On bus routes that included a Hilo-Kona express route, aimed at connecting Hilo with the South Kohala resorts and Kona via Saddle Road.

The money, as well as other trims from Mass Transit, were put into the capital projects fund, to be used to repair county facilities damaged by the hurricane.

Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha said he hopes the road projects can go forward.

“The council voted for the GET with the understanding that specific projects would be covered by this surcharge, i.e… mass transit and road projects,” Kanuha said. “GET money needed to recover from this past natural disaster is understandable, but I hope it doesn’t take away from the high priority items such as Ane Keohokalole Highway and Oneo Lane, which have been high priority for a long time.”

The council left $1.8 million in the budget to buy new buses after Finance Director Deanna Sako said it will save money in the long run.

The county is currently paying daily rental fees on Polynesian Adventure tour buses as it tries to rebuild its fleet.

“They do need the additional buses. They really do need more buses,” Sako said. “We cannot continue to lease the buses. It’s going to run us broke.”

The council, by a 7-0 vote, with Kohala Councilman Tim Richards and Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles absent, passed the budget amendment for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

County administration anticipates $35.1 million in new costs to fix East Hawaii roads and bridges, following a deluge that dumped about 50 inches of rain over a four-day period late last month, said Sako.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse 75 percent of the hurricane expenses, the county still needs to come up with 25 percent, she said.

Sako called a one-year delay of the Kona road projects a “worst-case” scenario, saying the county may still have funds to start them sooner, depending how quickly FEMA pays the county for the damages.

Hurricane Lane damages especially stung the county budget, coming on the heels of a $3.9 million general fund reduction to account for property tax revenues lost from Puna properties devalued because of the May 3 lava flow.

And next year is likely to be even more of a challenge, Sako said.

Even though the budget will see a $20 million to $25 million increase in revenues from the GET, the county is also facing big increases in its contributions to the employees retirement fund and post-employment benefits as dictated by state law. Retirement benefits are expected to climb from $43 million to $51 million, and post-employment benefits to rise from $39.8 million to $41.8 million, according to budget documents.

The GET can be used only for transportation, such as roads, bridges, mass transit and trails, but county officials hope the requirements can be loosened when the state Legislature next meets.

Sako said top county administrators and department heads recently had their budget kickoff meeting, with departments scheduled to being back their budget requests before the county begins drafting next year’s budget in December.

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Property values won’t be calculated until early next year.

“We’re expecting a lean year, and we haven’t worked out all the issues yet,” Sako said.

  1. CongressWorksForUs September 20, 2018 5:05 am Reply

    What the heck cost $35m ?????


  2. Scooby September 20, 2018 5:39 am Reply

    As expected, nothing more than lies and more talk.


  3. 4whatitsworth September 20, 2018 6:56 am Reply

    So the folks that do not work for the government or social services really did not want a tax hike but it was forced on us with the idea that it was going to pay for some real infrastructure and now its not? Who could have predicted that?

    The next stop is that this tax increase will not be allowed to expire. At what point have we had enough?


    1. Ernest T Bass September 20, 2018 7:07 pm Reply

      at what point?….this point.


  4. metalman808 September 20, 2018 7:18 am Reply

    Thieves in charge. Pretty sad.


  5. guest September 20, 2018 10:27 am Reply

    More tax increases on the way, these people know nothing else. Cut spending, cut positions instead of continually increasing taxes based upon lies. Sooner or later they are going to run everyone off the island and run out of things to tax. What else can we expect when one party of crooks rule.


  6. Ernest T Bass September 20, 2018 6:59 pm Reply

    The County Council put its final stamp of approval Wednesday on a revised budget reallocating the proceeds of $10 million the county ANTICIPATES RECEIVING this fiscal year from a quarter-cent surcharge on the state general excise tax that starts Jan. 1.
    .
    BOLOGNE!!! ( balony )
    What happens ???
    the “County Anticipates” and ” what the county actually brings IN with their new additional tax?????
    If the county has not noticed, tourism is in the outhouse.
    As is the local economy.
    Is the county hoping that all the ILLEGAL Vacation Rentals will all of the sudden just remit their taxes?????
    Tourism is down….people have a choice of their vacation destinations and the county attitude of ” the tourists won’t mind” …. they actually do.
    Hawaii is NOT the only “pretty girl at the dance.
    What happens when the county wakes up New Years day to an empty till????
    I know the answer….the county RAISES and BEGINS FEES…..because the tax gambit failed.


  7. Ernest T Bass September 22, 2018 5:47 pm Reply

    before you say another word….start furloughing county union employees….enjoy the pleasures….share the pains.


  8. Ernest T Bass September 22, 2018 5:54 pm Reply

    “The council left $1.8 million in the budget to buy new buses after Finance Director Deanna Sako said it will save money in the long run.”
    .
    Heck for 1.8 million the county could buy back their present fleet of junkers from the scrapyard for pennies on the dollar.
    The bus’s wouldn’t work but think what the county would save on Gas alone ????
    I think we can turn a profit simply by not having the bus’s run at all…..no bus’s….to nowhere.
    I think the county can put this plan together.
    Problem solved.


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