Hawaii school board OK’s requests for bigger operating, facilities budgets

2017 April 17 BSN - Phot courtesy of Maui Land & Pineapple. Warren Haruki, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Maui Land & PIneapple.

The state school board on Wednesday approved requests to the state Legislature for an additional $198.2 million for the Hawaii public schools’ operating budget and an added $273 million for capital improvement projects for next fiscal year.

State Department of Education officials who authored the requests said additional funding for 2024-2025 is necessary to respond to myriad pressing issues — among them: catching up from last legislative session’s severe budget, covering inflation and collective-bargaining pay preventing and preparing for the possibility of an active implementing a new statewide strategic for the schools, and recovering from pandemic learning loss and the Maui wildfires.


Brian Hallett, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer in the DOE’s Office of Fiscal Services, said the gap between the operating budget the DOE was granted by the past Legislature and what the schools, students and teachers will need for next fiscal year is “extraordinary.”

“I don’t recall a budget so precariously positioned in terms of uncertainty following last year’s budget, with actually less funds and greater needs,” Hallett said during a presentation to the Finance and Infrastructure Committee of the state Board of Education.

Hallett also noted that costs have skyrocketed for such essentials as utilities and workers compensation.

“We would certainly prefer to have our inflationary needs met without having to request it as vigorously as we’ve had to, and to justify and re-justify and sometimes (get) first-year funding only, and come back and have the same conversation again,” he said.

The 2023 Legislature approved an operating base budget of $2.031 billion in general funds for the 2024-2025 year. If the board’s supplemental request for the operating budget were granted fully, it would bring the general fund budget to $2.229 billion.

For CIP, the Legislature last year approved $126.77 million, but the department says it needs more than three times that amount, to bring the total to $399.77 million.

However, committee member Warren Haruki, who is also BOE chair, said the department must do a better job at moving existing projects to completion.

“Public perception is, your budget continues to grow,” he said.

Deputy Superintendent Curt Otaguro acknowledged a $2 billion backlog in CIP at the department.

“Every year we’re getting things done, but we’re also getting more money. So that amount just continues in there,” he said.

Otaguro also said his department continues to “juggle planned projects with unplanned emergencies. And that’s probably what you hear (from the ) schools … that their project is just not getting done, and that’s unfortunate. That’s the truth.” He described efforts underway to try to make planning and completion of construction, repairs and maintenance more efficient.

Both supplemental budget requests passed via unanimous consent at a special meeting of the full board.

But numerous steps lie ahead, including submission of the requests to Gov. Josh Green, who will create a budget request that will then be further debated at the 2024 Legislature.

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