Council to discuss call for audit of DOE

Resolution part of opposition to proposed school property tax ballot amendment

The Maui News

A resolution urging the state Office of the Auditor to conduct a performance and fiscal audit of the state Department of Education will be introduced at the County Council meeting Friday, Council Member Riki Hokama said.

“Quality education for our keiki is of the utmost importance” said Hokama. “However, the proposed constitutional amendment ballot question, authorized by the state Legislature, fails to evaluate efficiency and effectiveness within the Department of Education.”

The proposed resolution relates to the general election ballot question authorized by Senate Bill 2922 during the last legislative session. The ballot question asks voters: “Shall the Legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

If approved by a majority of voters, the ballot question would authorize an amendment to Article VIII, Section 3 of the state constitution, which currently allows only the counties real property taxing power.

“The collection of real property tax revenues by the state would strip the counties of funds used to provide core services, such as fire, police, parks and emergency management,” said Hokama, chairman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee.

“Taking these funds and autonomy away from the counties, especially without evaluating the department, sets a precedent for a lack of accountability,” he said.

The resolution also notes that the counties currently support education, a state government function, through funding after-school activities and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, and providing grants to educational programs and nonprofits, transportation for after-school programs, and facilities for educational and athletic activities.

At a council budget meeting Sept. 4, there was strong opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment with council members critical of the state encroaching on a county funding source and calling for an audit of the DOE.

Maui County joined other Hawaii counties in a lawsuit filed in 1st Circuit Court on Oahu in an attempt to block the proposed ballot amendment. A judge ruled against the counties earlier this month, meaning the measure will remain on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The council meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in Council Chambers in the county building in Wailuku.

Residents may provide testimony at the meeting or email written testimony to county.clerk@mauicounty.us. To review the resolution on the meeting agenda, go to Maui County.us/agendas.

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