Kim says balanced budget isn’t enough

  • Maile David
  • Mayor Harry Kim

HILO — Mayor Harry Kim earlier this month presented a balanced budget to the County Council.

Projected revenues from property taxes, gas taxes and fees cover the $515.7 million spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

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The budget is balanced without a county surcharge on the state’s general excise tax and without counting on any additional share of the state transient accommodations tax on hotels and other short-term lodging. It doesn’t rely on a property tax increase, instead taking in an additional $12.4 million from a 4.1 percent increase in property values and an extra $8.8 million in gas taxes.

That budget will be the subject of a public hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, with the public also allowed to participate by videoconferencing from the Hilo council chambers.

Kim doesn’t think his preliminary budget goes far enough.

“The budget is balanced because we’re required to submit that. … How easy it is to save the agony of getting there by just maintaining,” Kim said in an interview Friday. “Nobody wants to just maintain. They want to see our county improve.”

But a maintenance budget might just be what the County Council orders. After raising property taxes and fuel taxes last year, many council members are leery of more tax hikes, especially in an election year, and want to exercise fiscal restraint.

“I appreciate and agree with Mayor Kim’s position that it doesn’t do enough,” said Finance Committee Chairwoman Maile David, of South Kona/Ka’u. “However, the sense I have from the community, given increases in property and fuel taxes last year, is the county needs to tighten its belt and see how much it can do with what it has to work with until our financial situation improves.”

Kim said there are many more needs that simply won’t get funded under the current plan.

He rattles off a list of priorities, things he characterizes more as “have to have” rather than “nice to have.”

Among those are 14 new buses to bring Hele-On up to snuff, funding for a homelessness program that currently has none, 17 more police officers, including captains for every district and an additional officer per shift for Puna and Ka’u, and more regular road maintenance.

Most of the new money in the budget— $12.7 million — is pledged for employee salaries and benefits negotiated at the state level. Salaries and wages account for more than 66 percent of the operating budget.

Kim’s been lobbying the state Legislature for a greater slice of the TAT pie, and also for an extension on the deadline for the county to enact a half-cent GET surcharge.

The TAT bill, SB 648, would add $12.1 million to Hawaii County’s share for the next 12 years, raising it this year from $19.2 million to $31.2 million. It passed its second reading on the House floor on Friday, with 43 voting yes, three of those with reservations, three voting no and five excused, according to the Legislature’s website.

The GET surcharge extension, HB 2587, also passed second reading in the House on Friday. As amended, the bill would give neighbor island counties until June 30 to enact an authorization bill, rather than the current deadline of March 31.

It would also require a minimum of 60 percent of the half-cent surcharge to be used for transportation projects, rather than the full 100 percent. And, it would allow up to 2 percent to be used for private roadways that are used by the public.

All the pieces could come together at the last minute, with the Legislature set to conclude its business May 3 and the mayor required to submit his final proposed budget by May 5. The council voted last month to postpone consideration of the GET until no later than May 5.

Kim said he’ll craft his final proposed budget with the revenues he knows are available if everything is still up in the air by then. The mayor can amend the budget throughout the year with council approval.

Kim ruled out any increase in property taxes this year, even if no new money comes in. He and the council last year raised taxes by 1 percent — hitting 10.4 percent for some classes. Rates for the homeowner and affordable rental classes were not raised.

Property taxes currently account for 74 percent of county revenue, he said. Adding the GET and a greater share of the TAT collected on this island would broaden the tax base and make it more fair for everyone, he said.

“We have a fantastic opportunity here to make things better and not just maintain,” Kim said.

Kim said recent research has shown visitors would pay about half of the GET, compared to earlier estimates of about a third.

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David said she’s waiting to see what happens after departmental reviews scheduled for April 17-19 and council discussions.

“At that time the council will have a clearer picture of where we are financially,” David said, “and I am confident that creative and meaningful proposals will be forthcoming from my colleagues.”

  1. diverdave March 25, 2018 1:22 am

    Tax and Spend. Tax and Spend. And, it’s never enough.


  2. 4whatitsworth March 25, 2018 5:37 am

    Population growth has experienced a significant deceleration and now is at below 1% at just .86%. At the same time the size of the government is growing significantly at more than 5% per year. Does anyone see a problem here?

    “We have a fantastic opportunity here to make things better and not just maintain,” Kim said. Sorry Mr Kim this could not be further from the truth. A bigger bus system and free homeless housing will simply require more government spending to maintain. What we need right now is for the government to fix the basic services that we have, not create new ones.


  3. areapolice March 25, 2018 6:01 am

    I’m sick and tired of these people trying to get more money. We already pay to much for everything, food, gas, land taxes, medical, and maintaining a house. Yet we pay more to government workers. All government workers should have a cap on salaries. Say like $5000.00 a month and if they have to struggle with that much income a month, then they would know how the people of this island feels. Maybe then they would work harder to better the peoples lives in Hawaii. Why do you think they run for office in the first place. I’ll tell you why, it’s a no work hard position and not a real job. Not to mention the benefits, free travel, free food and a lot of ass kissing going on.


  4. Scooby March 25, 2018 6:09 am

    Harry Kim only knows how’s to spend money and ask for more money. Fix the busses you have and quit throwing money away with your crazy delusional thoughts on creating island-wide homeless camps! Police already have captains in all districts, why do they need more bosses instead of officers booths on the ground? If that’s the chiefs proposal he needs to be removed too.


  5. KonaLife March 25, 2018 6:15 am

    “Nobody wants to just maintain. They want to see our county improve.”

    Mr Kim is simply wrong on this one. I want to maintain (or better yet) decrease the property, gas, vehicle licensing and General Excise taxes I pay. Taking more for those who have worked, saved and sacrificed all their lives to have a decent standard of living and setting up boondoggle homeless camps, which will cost more per igloo to build and maintain than the median income of island residents, is not improving. It’s the opposite, Mr. Kim.


  6. paul March 25, 2018 6:35 am

    bullshit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!enough is enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!stop the waste,corruption,excessive salary increases,welfare, more corruption..most important..if one these elected – – – – raise or talk about raises then vote them out….if no recall then vote them out..have to do something!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  7. Corky March 25, 2018 6:39 am

    Harry should give himself another 35% raise….Ha!


  8. metalman808 March 25, 2018 9:02 am

    All the money going to the homeless should be going towards helping people with their cesspools. You know the people paying the property tax. More than 66% of the operating budget money goes to salaries and wages. That’s insane, no wonder everything is in disrepair. I guess you get what you voted for. A big FAKE smile. That is getting rich with your money. To funny


    1. KonaRich March 25, 2018 2:38 pm

      66% and goes up every year, not going to end well for the future generations to come.


  9. onceawarrior March 25, 2018 11:07 am

    Our County government and residents must learn to spend/live within our means.
    Our past generations sacrificed, earned, and sustained.
    Our current generation is on the verge of squandering our present including our government.
    Our resolutions should be free of contradictions.


  10. Gaston Belanger March 25, 2018 12:01 pm

    When the annual Rock Island Rider Mauna Kea 200 Motorcycle endurance event was forced to shut down because of DLNR micro managed nit picking rules & regulations, the State of Hawaii gave up over $200,000 in taxable income every year generated from this unique off road event, because of this, after being a 40 year resident, I no longer live here, one more Tax payer gone.


  11. KonaDude March 26, 2018 3:09 am

    When will we start seeing the benefits of all those government raises? Why aren’t they sacrificing anything? When will people wake up? It’s really sad we don’t have a leader that wants to help the people that pay the bills!!


  12. oceanwatcher.com March 26, 2018 9:25 am

    First priority to doing more with less or “maintaining” as Kim puts it would be to decrease this absurd 66% of the budget that is used for wages and salaries. First cut – the 27% – 30% raise they just gave themselves. Honest pay for honest work – a concept about which this county government and its employees know or understand nothing. Vote them all out!


  13. Dan March 26, 2018 6:32 pm

    Since 66% of the budget goes towards salaries in the county, it’s time to start having real performance management reviews for department heads and their staff. The performance management system for Hawaii county is a joke and their is no accountability for performance from department heads on down. A good ole pat on the back isn’t going to cut it anymore Harry particularly when you hand yourself a 30% increase in your own salary based upon a year of failures. Water pumps down with no backup, road upgrades mismanaged in terms of timeframes…the list is endless. taxpayers expect more of Kim and the people failing to manage the county, but a good ole pat on the back for my brother’s cousin is what happens at review time every year here in Hawaii county!.


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