Public comment sought on Hawaii County budget

  • Hawaii County logo

  • Council Chairwoman Maile David

  • Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

Do you think the county isn’t spending enough on a particular project or public service? Think it’s spending too much?

Tuesday is your chance to speak out, as the County Council holds its annual public hearing on the county budget.

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“A very wise friend of mine always says, ‘the world is run by those who show up,’” said council Finance Committee Chairman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder.

The County Council will not make any decisions at the meeting, but will accept public input as is required by the county charter. The new budget will go into effect July 1.

Because of the continuing emergency measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the physical meeting room will not be open to the public, but the public can comment through videoconferencing, telephone conferencing or by submitting written testimony.

The details of the $609.1 million operating budget are in Bill 21, and those of the $221.5 million capital improvement budget are in Bill 22. The full text of the bills can be found at the County Council records website, http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/Weblink/Browse.aspx?dbid=0.

The budget, as presented by Mayor Mitch Roth, is a 3.9% increase over last year, with no property tax hikes anticipated. It relies on increases in property valuations, expected to bring in $10.5 million more, and about $5 million more in grants.

The bulk of the budget revenues come from property taxes, with general excise taxes, fuel taxes, fees for waste services, golf course and short-term vacation rentals accounting for a smaller amount. The biggest expenditures deal with public safety, accounting for $159.3 million, or 26.1% of appropriations, followed by contributions to employees’ pensions and retirement funds, at $79.1 million or 13%.

The public hearing begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday and can be viewed on the council’s website. To participate by videoconference or phone, register by noon Monday by emailing jeanette.aiello@hawaiicounty.gov or calling 961-8255. Written testimony can be submitted through email at counciltestimony@hawaiicounty.gov and is due by noon Monday.

Public hearings on the county budget are traditionally not well-attended by the public. But council members hope this year will be different.

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“I do hope that the public participate and share ideas and perspectives from the citizens’ point of view,” said Council Chairwoman Maile David.

“I feel it is very important due to economic impacts from COVID that the council hear from everyday people who were directly and economically impacted because of COVID and where they believe the county should direct funding to be most effective and meaningful to the citizens,” she added. “I’m hopeful that public testimony via (videoconferencing) will generate more participation.”

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