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‘A fiscally responsible budget’

LIHUE — Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami on Friday submitted a $242-million supplemental budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the Kauai County Council.

“My whole political career has been on that side of the podium,” Kawakami said, referring to his time on the council and state Legislature. “So we wanted to present a budget putting ourselves in your shoes.”

Kawakami added that cuts were made to every single department in his “fiscally responsible” supplemental budget, adding that the county is in negotiations to acquire 417 acres in Waimea and that $381,000 will be paid in a deposit to the federal government to get night high school football lights and games going again after an islandwide ban.

Public comment was taken prior to Kawakami’s submission, with only three people testifying before the council. All three were employees of the Kauai Humane Society, who were there to ask the council for $70,000 in additional funding.

KHS Executive Director Mirah Horowitz came before the council to reaffirm the society’s need for the additional funding.

“This will allow us to continue a very critical role that we currently provide, which is investigating animal cruelty,” Horowitz said.

Later, in the addition portion of the budget decision hearing, the council voted 6-1 to pass the $70,000 in funding for the humane society and $41,036 for domestic violence victims. The council has $111,036 available for further additions to the budget.

The first portion of the budget-revision process dealt with cuts to proposed expenditures, which required four “yes” votes from councilmembers to pass. Several cuts were proposed, including an $84,600 deduction from police salaries, which passed six to one.

A proposal to remove funding for a police department public information officer was voted down.

Vice-chair Ross Kagawa made a motion to cut $1.38 million from the fire department, which was eventually voted down.

“My intention was to
actually cut $2.5 (million),” Kagawa said, adding that the reason for the cuts primarily had to do with spiking concerns.

An additional $30,756 was cut from an electrician position in the Parks and Recreation Department for a six-month position.

Felicia Cowden introduced a motion to fund an alternative outside of the Kauai Economic Opportunity homeless shelter.

“It seems like a crisis, and sending them to a place with 18 beds is not enough,” Cowden said of a proposition to cut KEO funding and add monies to the county Housing Agency budget for the “houseless crisis.”

Steve Franco, housing director, said of the proposal by Cowden, “Our concern at the housing agency is the performance of KEO and giving them any additional monies from this fund.”

“We certainly don’t want to be a magnet for more homeless transplants,” Kagawa said.

Franco said KEO has come to the Housing Agency and expressed concerns over staff turnover.

Franco reiterated that KEO is the only licensed and recognized homeless shelter by the state at this time on Kauai, and that is the reason funding has been channeled through the organization despite the Housing Agency’s concerns with KEO’s performance.

Cowden’s motion for a secondary homeless shelter funding was voted down by the council before moving into recess.

Later in the meeting, the council voted on a proposal to increase real property tax rates, including the homestead tax rate, by 15 cents from $3.05 per $1,000 of assessed value. Also within the proposal was the option to increase the transient vacation rental tax rate $1, and up the hotel tax rate by 15 cents.

“A lot of these people even without a mortgage are on the verge of having to sell their houses,” Cowden said.

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said he would prefer to keep the rate where it is.

“We cannot keep going down the road of increasing taxes,” Kaneshiro said, adding he prefers keeping the tax rate hike in the council’s back pocket when the economy is not doing well.

The proposal was voted down five to one, with Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i recusing himself.

“Touching tax rates is like surgery. It cannot be an atomic bomb,” Kaneshiro added after the vote.

The decision-making public hearing was adjourned, and Kaneshiro said the next meeting will be on May 14 when the mayor’s supplemental budget will go through the public-hearing process. The budget will be formally adopted by the council at their May 29 meeting during the second and final reading, where councilmembers will make their closing comments on the budget, which they refrained from doing Friday.

The May 13 and 14 chair-optional budget-decision public hearings will not be held.

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Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or rcollins@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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