Not that anyone needed warning flags about the county’s uncomfortably tight budget situation, but Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy waved one just in case.
The councilor is proposing the county offer commercial sponsorships as another means to raise funds after a year in which it administered raises, raised taxes and fees and scoured every potential source of revenue in search of $8 million to balance the books.
Under her bill, which may be heard by the Finance Committee as early as March 13, individuals or entities that contribute at least $20,000 to a county facility or program would be recognized through a display or by way of press releases and promotional material.
Lee Loy, whose district includes parts of Hilo and Keaau, said examples could be a business sponsoring a scoreboard at a ball field or a roof for the arena at the Panaewa Equestrian Center.
Facilities would not be named after sponsors and sponsorships would be denied if they promote discrimination or if the person or entity involved has a pending application or legal proceeding with the county.
To her credit, she said she was just lobbing the idea out there as a way of thinking outside the box.
“It’s a framework that hopefully will give us another tool in our tool belt,” she said. “I recognize we will be facing a tough budget process and we need to start being more innovative and creative.”
Creative, it is.
But how many roofs or scoreboards need naming at a minimum of 20 large? The notion conjures images of minor league baseball fences or maybe Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 racecar. But more than that, it begs the question as to what, oh what, is the county’s big-picture game plan?
This scraping-by budget situation has been years in the making and nowhere — except Lee Loy’s billboard idea, perhaps — does the formula look like it’s ever going to change.
Property values aren’t going down, nor will the associated taxes. The TAT is not coming back, either, and the collective bargaining negotiation setup will still be stacked by sides who benefit from the raises they’re voting on.
We know all about ad sales, that’s our industry’s lifeblood. As a newspaper, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit we’d be keeping an eyebrow raised if say a church, for instance, ponied up to get its name attached to a government facility in some capacity.
But we hope Lee Loy’s plan works. We hope it brings in a little extra cushion to get through the budgeting process. Why not?
Then everyone can take a deep breath, relax, and get ready to go through it all again next year.