Chair’s 3 Minutes: Council to carry county budget across finish line

Today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievements.

As the County Council nears the finish line of its annual budget review, we must remember that achieving the goals of long-term prosperity and sustainability depends on carefully preparing a budget that efficiently meets the needs of Maui County’s people.

Throughout this entire month, the council’s Budget and Finance Committee has worked diligently to review the mayor’s proposed budget of approximately $600 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But we aren’t finished.

This week is where the rubber meets the road. Council members have submitted their own budget proposals and will now hammer out the budget details before the committee agrees on a final recommendation to the full council, hopefully by Friday night.

I intend to raise a number of issues during this decision-making week.

While the overall county economy is apparently humming along at “near boom” levels, many social programs are still struggling to provide important services for our community.

I’d like to see a judicious increase in funding for important nonprofit organizations like Ka Lima O Maui (which employs close to 50 adults with disabilities) and Maui’s youth centers. These agencies provide vital services, contributing to a high quality of life for many residents – and benefiting all of us in the years to come.

We must ensure they are funded at a level that enables them to maintain or increase their critical work.

An appraisal for the Kula Community Center property also is my priority. The county has leased the property since the 1950s and should, finally, purchase the property for residents and visitors to enjoy in perpetuity.

I’m concerned about the mayor’s proposal to raise real property tax rates. The biggest proposed increases are in the Residential (i.e., landlord) and Time Share classifications.

I think an increase in the Residential rate may result in owners of rental properties charging higher rent to cover the increase. This could hurt working families.

It is my opinion that any necessary rate increases should be spread more evenly across all classifications.

On Thursday at 6 p.m. in the chambers, the council will hold a public hearing on real property tax rates.

Under the County Charter, the council must approve its revised budget, via ordinance, by June 10. Otherwise, the mayor’s proposed budget would be deemed approved.

The budget must pass two council readings. Although subject to change, first reading of the budget legislation is scheduled to occur on May 28, with second and final reading on June 6.

The council’s budget will then be presented to the mayor for approval. Once the mayor signs, the budget will take effect at the start of Fiscal Year 2014 on July 1.

See you at the finish line!

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council.