Budget now $524M: Richards rails against spending all the GET

  • Deanna Sako
  • Tim Richards

HILO — Even with a $4 million hit from Puna property tax revenues swallowed by the lava flow, the County Council is about to approve a bill effectively setting the annual budget at a historic high, thanks to a general excise tax surcharge.

The 2018-19 budget, anticipating a $10 million infusion after the quarter-cent surcharge takes effect Jan. 1, now stands at $524 million, about $6.1 million more than the $518 million budget proposed by Mayor Harry Kim.


The County Council is scheduled to approve Bills 168 and 169 on first reading Wednesday. The bills shuffle money out of the general fund to put into the transportation fund for mass transit and roads, while creating a special fund where money from the GET will be deposited once collections begin.

The budget doesn’t take into account $12 million already provided by Gov. David Ige out of state administrative funds, or any amount from the $680 million disaster recovery package Kim is requesting from the Legislature.

But adding — and spending — the entire $10 million extra coming from the new county share of the general excise tax is rubbing Kohala Councilman Tim Richards the wrong way.

Richards, who had opposed the tax but finally relented one day before the deadline to pass the measure, said he never intended for all the money to be spent. He said he understood the $5 million in excess funds would be deposited into a special account and held in reserves.

“This is not what we discussed previously when we discussed the GE tax,” Richards said during an Aug. 8 Finance Committee hearing. “That money is not going to be spent, but it should not be appropriated now either. … That’s not what I signed up for; that’s not what my constituents signed up for.”

But Finance Director Deanna Sako and several other council members said they’d understood all along the money was going to be spent.

“I think we’ve been very consistent throughout,” Sako said. “We’re doing our best to tell everyone how we’re going to use it. … We’re being consistent. We said all along where we’re going to be spending the money.”

North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff said she appreciated the creation of the special account because it increased transparency.

“We can watch it better. I thought that was a way we can keep tabs on it,” Eoff said. “Understanding the budget process … we raised that tax. … We don’t have to spend it, but we do have to at least create expenditure line items because we do have to create a balanced budget.”

Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter and Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles said they’d also understood that the money would be spent.

Richards remained unmollified. He noted the council and mayor had already raised property tax revenues by about 6 percent. Richards was the sole no vote on Bill 169 in committee.

“My understanding is everybody’s good for increasing taxes again. That’s what we do with increased expenditures,” he said. “I’m very disappointed.”

The $10 million from the GET must be used for transportation and mass transit related expenditures, under state law. But because the county currently pays about $4 million for mass transit from the general fund, that amount will be moved to the new special fund, making up for property tax revenues lost to the lava flow.

Also coming out of the general fund are small amounts from cutbacks in the Information Technology, Research and Development and Planning departments, as well as less money being transferred to the Public Access Open Space Preservation funds because the loss of property tax revenues means the percentages are applied to a smaller base.


Of the $10 million in the new GET fund, $3.8 million covers the mass transit costs formerly in the general fund, $1.8 million will buy new buses, $1.6 million will create additional bus routes, $700,000 will go for technology improvements in the Hele-On bus system, $500,000 will go for bus shelters and $100,000 for bus stop signs.

The remaining $1.5 million is slated for improvements on two Kona roads: Oneo Lane and the Ane Keohokalole extension.

  1. qui bono August 21, 2018 3:41 am

    Councilman Richards was fined $500 by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission on August 3rd for not filing his Electioneering Communications on time. Twice.
    If managing a $42,000 Primary Election budget was a challenge maybe finance is not his strong suit.

    1. CongressWorksForUs August 21, 2018 6:48 am

      Translation: Councilman Richards was targeted by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission for daring to speak out about the council’s reckless spending…

    2. Bigislandfarmer August 21, 2018 10:32 am

      Richards belongs in prison, not on the Council where we all pay his massive salary for doing next to nothing.

      1. Farmers4Choice August 21, 2018 10:41 am

        You are not a farmer and clearly a h8er…

        1. Bigislandfarmer August 21, 2018 11:48 am

          I do hate criminals, yes. You must be on his payroll.

        2. Bigislandfarmer August 23, 2018 12:27 pm

          Only people that hate calling out corruption are corrupt people themselves. So you either are, or maybe you’re another of Richards’ goons.

    3. Farmers4Choice August 21, 2018 10:41 am

      FYI Filing an electioneering report is different than managing a budget. Not to mention the Law was enforced different this year “mid-election” than in previous years. Almost every campiagn in teh State violated how the rules were implemented this year; only the Campaigns who had h8ers who filed complaints got fined.

      1. KonaLife August 21, 2018 1:36 pm

        You either follow the law, or you don’t. Richards didn’t. Nothing to do with “h8ers”, whatever the heck that implies. And, yes filing an election campaign spending report should be easy; if he feels he doesn’t need to follow those laws about campaign financing, how on earth could we imagine him working on a much larger County budget in a fair and honest manner? Eoff’s lies are certainly worse, but Richards’ is giving her a run for money in the dishonest politician race.

  2. Big ideas August 21, 2018 5:52 am

    North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff said she appreciated the creation of the special account because it increased transparency. “We can watch it better. I thought that was a way we can keep tabs on it,” Eoff said.

    The HECK with watching the $10 M extra…watch how the $500 M is being spent!

    1. Pest Outwest August 21, 2018 9:11 am

      Karen Eoff (and Tim Richards for that matter) and the word “transparency” have little in common, given that they are both proven liars, right in these pages, concerning their vacation rentals, Eoff twice over.

      1. Chickie Galore August 21, 2018 10:29 am

        Spot on again Pest!

  3. guest August 21, 2018 6:23 am

    Spend it all creating even more long term liabilities, next year raise taxes again. These people know nothing else.

    1. Bigislandfarmer August 21, 2018 11:49 am

      Well they do know how to lie, steal, hide income, put personal expenses on County taxpayer credit cards, etc.

  4. 4whatitsworth August 21, 2018 8:40 am

    Did anyone think that all of the tax increases would not be instantly taken? There is just nothing like a run on other people money..

    Socialism is great… until, oh its not, take a look Venezuela if you want to see how this ends.

    1. Chickie Galore August 21, 2018 10:29 am

      Viva la Venezuela, comrade!

    2. Bigislandfarmer August 21, 2018 10:31 am

      Right wing taxes on the poor are not socialism.

  5. Chickie Galore August 21, 2018 10:28 am

    Hah Hah. First they said it was a 12 million dollar hit from the lack of Puna taxes. But for sure they should make room for buying Harry Kim’s oceanfront property at pre-lava prices! And Karen Eoff speaking on transparency! That is a laugh! Good thing WHT can entertain us.

  6. Bigislandfarmer August 21, 2018 10:30 am

    Eoff calling for transparency made me spit my coffee all over my screen! This is a person who lied repeatedly about owning a vacation rental that she makes a fortune on and his at least $60k in income from the County, which she was required by law to disclose. Her incompetent, corrupt buddy Mitch Roth, refused to even pursue any charges for her or Richards, who also his income from the County. That these people can’t govern without massive, far-right regressive tax increases on the poor during a major economic boom and 2.5% unemployment calls for every one of them being removed from office, investigated, and prosecuted for any crime uncovered.

    1. Pest Outwest August 22, 2018 4:05 pm

      Did she even admit to it? It’s like she just pretended she didn’t totally lie and moved on.
      “I do not have — and have never had — a rental of any kind,” Eoff said in an email. “Please stop sending misinformation.” When she was caught, she said “I should have qualified my response….” Apparently “qualifying” is the modern version of “misspoke”.

      By the way, digging through the past produced an amusing quote:

      “Eoff is the only council member who owns a short-term vacation rental,
      according to financial disclosure reports filed by Jan. 31 with the county clerk.”

      Well, not the only one as it turns out, because Richards also lied on his financial disclosure form. And just won another election. Guess they know the voters well.

      1. Bigislandfarmer August 23, 2018 12:24 pm

        She did, but provided no proof that she ever paid taxes on it. She’s owned it since 2006, brought in at least $10,000 per year the last 7 years, and still lied that she never had a profit on it despite it being rented out all the time and having NO MORTGAGE on the property! Her corrupt buddy, Mitch Roth, refused to even investigate her or Richards for this, and let p-card Poindexter get away with her crimes too. He should be investigated by the Feds without question.

  7. Ernest T Bass August 21, 2018 9:27 pm

    You see what the county does not understand is that they have crippled or put out of business or overtaxed the LEGAL Law biding citizens…..they are putting me …. a loyal taxpayer out of business.
    What they are left with is the scofflaws that operate illegally and never have remitted taxes.
    The county taxes our tourist guests as well at every turn….there ARE OTHER GREAT destinations for ones expensive vacation besides Hawaii.
    My advice to the county and state is “Dont count on those Bigger Numbers in your tax collections”
    You have effectively killed the friendly golden goose.
    You are not going to Increase your revenues because you drove business away.
    Hope you are happy Mayor Kim.
    You have Not Gotten the GET YET….be amazed at it’s smallness..

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