Budget panel saves Waiehu Golf Course in its plan for 2018

At $704.8 million, proposal is still $15.5M leaner than mayor’s take

The Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee finalized a proposed $704.8 million county budget for fiscal 2018, which includes saving the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course, increasing trash collection fees and dedicating funds to road resurfacing.

The proposed budget will be forwarded to the full council on May 19 for first reading. Second and final reading is set for May 30. The budget will take effect July 1.

The committee’s proposed budget is $15.5 million leaner than Mayor Alan Arakawa’s proposal of $720.3 million, but $45.3 million more than the current fiscal year budget of $659.5 million.

In his proposal, Arakawa called for closing the Waiehu golf course, citing a loss of $16.3 million in the past decade. During Budget and Finance Committee deliberations, Chairman Riki Hokama and other members said closing the course was not an option.

“We listened to the community — the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course will continue its operations as a county facility, and as requested through our annual budget survey, additional funds will be dedicated to road resurfacing,” Hokama said in a news release Tuesday. “A sizable investment will also be made to combat invasive species to protect our fragile ecosystem, as our economic future depends on a pristine environment.”

Hokama could not be reached for comment Tuesday because he was traveling.

In the committee’s version, $5.2 million is dedicated to road resurfacing across the county. In addition, $2.5 million is alloted for environmental protection, which includes the eradication of coqui frogs, miconia and other invasive plants and animals.

The committee chose to retain Arakawa’s proposal of hiking fees for residential trash collection, although at lower levels. Monthly trash fees for Maui and Molokai would rise from $24 to $27 and from $12 to $14 on Lanai. The mayor proposed raising month fees for Maui and Molokai to $30 and $15 on Lanai.

The $3 per vehicle fee for residential trash dumping at the Central Maui Landfill, proposed by Arakawa, was included in the committee’s budget as well.

The committee also called for increasing commercial tipping fees from $81 per ton to $90 — less than the $99 called for by the mayor.

While water fees would remain stable, the committee is seeking an increase in sewer fees, from $29.20 to $30.08 per month for single-family and duplex dwellings. The hike was not proposed by Arakawa.

Saving the golf course was a priority, but the rates would rise under the committee’s plan. Residents would pay $15 versus $13 per round on weekdays and $22 instead of $18 on weekends and holidays.

Resident retirees would pay $10 on weekdays, up $2, and $14 instead of $12 on weekends and holidays.

Out-of-state visitors would pay $58 on weekdays and $63 on weekends and holidays.

Students would continue to pay $2 on weekdays and $3 on weekends.

In the news release, Hokama said the committee still managed to balance the budget with the state Legislature still making decisions over the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax. Based on reports out of the state Capitol on Tuesday night, it appears that the county’s share of the TAT will remain at $23.5 million.

Other issues presenting challenges included increased collective bargaining arbitration awards and additional required contributions to the Hawaii Employees Retirement System and Employers Union Trust Fund. The Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest public employee union, announced last week that six bargaining units received two-year contract awards that range from 6 to 7 percent over the period through arbitration.

The ways the committee chose to reduce the mayor’s proposed budget included trimming funding for capital improvement projects by deferring some projects, including some bond-fund ones, council Chairman Mike White’s office said Tuesday. Funding for some projects were reduced with departments providing input.

Budget highlights:

• $4.3 million for the continued revitalization of Wailuku town, including construction funds for parking expansion.

• $200,000 for Wailuku’s clean and safe program, the full amount sought. An earlier proposal had reduced funding in half.

• $25 million for a new county service center at the Maui Business Park in Kahului.

• An additional $24 million for the West Maui Wastewater Reclamation Facility. Combined with funding over the past two years, the total would be $49 million.

• $1.2 million for the expansion of the Kula Agricultural Park and related water infrastructure improvements.

• $500,000 for a new agricultural park in Lanai.

• An additional $200,000 for a multiskill-level Upcountry skate park, which would bring the total funding to $1.4 million.

• $250,000 for the design of a new Kahului Community Center.

• $250,000 for the acquisition of Dole Park on Lanai.

• $35,000 for planning for the relocation of the Pukoo Fire Station on Molokai.

• $350,000 for the design of War Memorial Gym improvements in Wailuku, plus $1.4 million for construction.

• $1.6 million for the acquisition of the Ueoka Building in Wailuku for a new Family Justice Center, the first of its kind to service victims of domestic violence and abuse.

• $100,000 to support the 250th birthday celebration of Queen Ka’ahumanu in March.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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