Chair’s 3 Minutes: Your county budget, demystified

All residents should understand how the county budget works.

It’s your hard-earned money we invest for the future.

I’ve previously discussed the county’s largest revenue source – real property taxes. Now, I want to highlight other important aspects of the budget.

For households and businesses, a budget is a helpful way to ensure the money to be spent doesn’t exceed the money coming in. For the county, a balanced annual budget isn’t just a good idea – it’s also a legal requirement.

There are three main types of funds in the budget: the General Fund, Special Revenue Funds and Enterprise Funds.

The General Fund is the largest fund; it’s where property tax revenue is deposited. It covers core county services, such as park maintenance, the operation of the police and fire departments and legal services.

Special Revenue Funds are six accounts financed through various sources specific to the funds themselves. Among the most important are the following:

* Highway Fund. Supported by motor vehicle weight taxes, fuel taxes, public utility franchise taxes and transit fares, this fund is used to repave roads, build storm drains and provide the Maui Bus service.

* Sewer Fund. This fund is tapped for improving wastewater systems and facilities and is funded by monthly sewer charges.

* Solid Waste Management Fund. Funded by landfill disposal charges and refuse collection fees, this fund provides for refuse collection services and landfill and recycling programs.

Enterprise Funds include the Water Supply Fund (used to maintain water source and delivery infrastructure) and the Golf Fund (for the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course).

The Budget and Finance Committee has completed its review of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget – recommending tax rates, estimating revenues and appropriating revenue to fulfill obligations and perform services from July 1 to June 30, 2014.

Did the committee get everything right? The Maui County Council will hear the budget on first reading at 10 a.m. on May 28.

While working on the county budget, I submitted testimony more than 50 times to the state Legislature during the recently concluded legislative session. Overall, the county did well.

We’ll continue to see about $21 million in transient accommodations tax revenue returned to the county. At the behest of a majority of council members, the Legislature appropriated $20 million to preserve Lipoa Point in West Maui.

But we can do better. With Mayor Alan Arakawa’s support, I’m working on uniting council members and mayors throughout all four counties to ensure local government has a strong and cohesive voice at the state Capitol, through the Hawaii State Association of Counties.

Meanwhile, other county business continues. On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the council will conduct its first regular meeting of the month.

The council will review affordable housing projects, reports on claim settlements and legislation from the managing director regarding parking in Wailuku. Though regular council meetings are typically held on the first and third Fridays, the calendar has been adjusted this month to accommodate deadlines for passing the budget.

A hui hou.

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