Council approves 4.1% budget increase: Parks, firefighters, police, permit clerks among additions
Equipment for firefighters, repairs to parks, hardened computer systems, more hours of community policing, four more vehicle registration and registration clerks and money for bank accounts. emergency council added $ 1 million to the operating budget proposed by Mayor Mitch Roth, bringing the final total to $ 610.1 million after Hawaii County Council’s final passage Thursday.
The plan without new taxes provides $ 10.5 million more in property taxes through increased assessments, as well as $ 5 million more in grants and $ 3.1 million more saved from this year’s budget. There is also a $ 19.6 million tax break from the US bailout, the first of what is expected to be two annual payments.
The council added programs and people by dipping into the fund balance – money unspent from the previous year carried over to the new fiscal year that begins July 1 – and shifting money to keep the balance budgetary. For example, money was taken from some positions that had been approved but were not to be immediately filled, and $ 250,000 was taken from the workers’ compensation account.
The budget, a 4.1% increase from this year, was approved 8-0 with Hilo City Councilor Aaron Chung absent.
The addition of two new vehicle registration and driver’s license clerks in Kona and two in Hilo should go a long way in addressing community concerns, council members said. The four positions total $ 216,447 in salaries, wages, pensions and benefits.
These positions are in addition to 12 new positions Roth added in various county departments and two part-time positions converted to full-time positions in his proposed budget.
“I believe the public has been very loud and asked for these posts for a long time,” said Puna city councilor Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder, who sponsored the amendment.
Other common complaints from the public relate to the state of county parks and the lack of police protection in neighborhoods. Hilo City Councilor Sue Lee Loy therefore sponsored an amendment providing $ 100,000 for park maintenance and $ 65,000 for community policing, giving each of the council’s nine districts approximately 200 hours of overtime. additional community policing.
The fire department was not excluded either, with Lee Loy allocating $ 50,000 for equipment and Puna City Councilor Ashley Kierkiewicz adding $ 160,000.
Kierkiewicz also added $ 250,000 for computer upgrades in various departments and an audit of county codes in the planning department. She noted that a computer failure earlier this year resulted in the loss of months of records that had to be re-entered manually.
Kohala City Councilor Tim Richards, who voted with reservations on the amendments, said the process of drawing down the fund balance, especially when county officials don’t even know how much money is left in the end of the fiscal year on June 30 makes him nervous. He liked the amendments because they were results-based, he said, but he wished there was a better process for getting there.
“This year has been weird because of the expenses we haven’t made,” said Richards. “The more we keep playing with the fund balance, the more worried I have.”
So far, everything has been fine, said CFO Deanna Sako, who kept a running account of expenses the board was adding.
“I think we’ll be okay with the million, but after that I might not be smiling anymore,” Sako said. “We are definitely trying to be conservative because our taxpayers are struggling too.”
While they praised the rest of the board for looking for creative ways to meet some of the department heads’ $ 15 million requests for programs left out of Roth’s budget, several board members also lamented. the last-minute process that saw hundreds of thousands of dollars shifted in ground amendments that had not been made available to the public – or even other board members – in advance.
Lee Loy agreed the process was “awkward”. The budget came mainly from the previous administration, she noted. Much had already been sketched out before Roth and his new directors took office in December.
“All of the directors received something based on the goals and priorities of a previous administration,” said Lee Loy. “I really think we’re doing our best to keep a good budget. “
Kierkiewicz agreed that the budgeting process is an “ever-changing dynamic”.
“It’s awkward, it’s messy, but it’s our process and we just have to own it,” she said. “We’re just doing our best with the tools we have. “
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