Kim’s budget it is: Council fails to approve amended version

  • Mayor Harry Kim

HILO — After almost 12 hours of haggling over a volcano-torched budget, a contentious County Council session ended Wednesday night with the council unable to pass a spending plan.

The 2-7 vote means Mayor Kim’s $518 million plan goes into effect, even though loss of property taxes from Puna lands consumed by lava leaves a crater of at least $5 million. The council’s action means property tax increases are extremely unlikely this year, as the charter requires property tax rates to be set by June 20 after a public hearing.

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Only North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff and South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David voted in favor of the budget.

Finance Director Deanna Sako said the administration will await the council’s June 19 vote on a general excise tax increase before determining how best to balance the budget. Sako had presented lists of possible cuts, including a $5 million and a $7 million spending cut scenario.

“It’s all going to depend on what happens with the general excise tax,” Sako said Thursday.

Even the smaller list of cuts would entail noticeable reductions in county services, such as doing away with recycling programs, cutting county swimming pool hours to three days a week, suspending festivals such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and July 4 celebrations and doing away with programs such as Summer Fun, fishing derbies and track and field.

The council faced the option of passing its annual budget with the $5 million hole in it, cutting services, furloughing employees or raising general excise taxes or property taxes.

Kohala Councilman Tim Richards pushed for a variety of cuts, but didn’t have the support of council colleagues.

“It’s my belief we have to cut the budget knowing that we will probably get reimbursed and with the reimbursements we will have more revenue going forward,” Richards said. “I think we have to make some pretty strong cuts to deal with this. I think that’s the direction we need to go.”

The budget adds $500,000 to grants for nonprofits, restoring the allocation to its previous level of $1.5 million. It also puts $270,000 into the council contingency fund, giving the nine council members $30,000 each to spread around their districts. This past year, they had $75,000 each.

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The budget increases landfill tipping fees and housing grants to reach its new historic level, a 5.5 percent increase over last year. While no property tax increases are planned this year, the fuel tax will ratchet up by an additional 4 cents.

The council had voted 5-4 earlier Wednesday to pass a scaled-down general excise tax increase, with Puna Councilwomen Eileen O’Hara and Jen Ruggles, along with Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, voting no.

  1. 4whatitsworth June 8, 2018 9:50 am

    West Hawaii Today, I noticed that you turned off comments on “Council passes GET-lite hike” story and Our view 50 Million is just to much to pass up. Apparently you are moving toward limiting feedback and not exactly a free speech haven any more. If this is the new policy I think you will find you self in the same deteriorating market as CNN where you alienate you conservative readers who think that increasing the size of a broken government is a catastrophic idea. Even in Hawaii there is a large and growing number of people who believe in limiting government and true free speech.

    As far as balancing the budget in the long term. The first thing to realize is that real estate taxes are paid in advance so that money has not actually been earned yet so it should not be spent on things like salary increases. The second thing is that government needs to work to grow the tax base rather than just increase the tax percentages. If government can’t grow the tax base than it should cut expenses that we don’t want like massive retirement programs, social services that are just slush funds, union contracts etc.


    1. no2oil June 9, 2018 4:06 pm

      …the same deteriorating market as CNN where you alienate you conservative readers who think that increasing the size of a broken government is a catastrophic idea…really? Please define “Conservative” readers, surely you’re not referring to those poor souls brainwashed daily by the propaganda machine called the Fox News network or as any guide to Hawaii’s future governance.

      As for WHT and its Hawai’i based readers, the aloha spirit is alive and well, in spite of the current challenges facing our island community.

      Tax reform in Hawai’i is needed for sure, but our state and county government budgets do not have the luxury operating with massive budget deficits typical of today’s Federal government. Unlike the GOP now in total control of the Federal government , Hawai’i still operates with some vestige of a public institution designed by and for all the people of Hawai’i. Until our citizens forsake their responsibility of civic engagement, stop voting and stop caring, we can expect our county and state representatives will work to serve the many and unequal public interests they represent – not an easy task. When and if this changes, we will vote them out of office and elect their replacements.


      1. 4whatitsworth June 9, 2018 6:47 pm

        I am all for the aloha spirit and good will toward all, and would whole heatedly agree that well meaning public leaders have their work cut out for them today.

        My definition of conservative readers are those of us who want to exist with out an exponential tax and regulation burden and want to have smart health kids with a chance at a future where they are not taxed into slavery.


  2. diverdave June 11, 2018 9:32 am

    In the end these TAX and SPENDERS will just raise taxes. That’s all they can do to perpetuate their “needed” services.


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