Council to approach fiscal challenges

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

The County Council can anticipate fiscal challenges this year brought by bargaining unit negotiations and the continued cap imposed on the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax.

More than 20 members of the Hawaii State Association of Counties on Tuesday presented legislative priorities in its package to House Speaker Joe Souki, Senate President Ron Kouchi and more than 30 state legislators and staff.

HSAC President Stacy Crivello led the presentation and discussion. Several members also stayed for the opening ceremonies of the 29th state Legislature on Wednesday.

The counties will continue to fight for a percent-based formula for its share of the transient accommodations tax, also known as hotel tax or TAT. The Legislature last year arbitrarily capped the counties’ share at $103 million after disregarding the 55-45 percent split recommendation from a working group that conducted an in-depth research on the topic at their request.

The counties deserve a greater share of the TAT. The residents are unfairly burdened with paying for the services our visitors use like water and sewer, police, fire and ocean safety protection and road maintenance.

Returning a fair share of the TAT to the counties would also help ease the fiscal challenges brought by mandatory pay increases this year.

Negotiations for all 14 collective bargaining units have begun, which discusses salary raises and benefits for thousands of employees for all the counties. The final dollar amount discussed on the negotiation table is submitted to the council absent of any explanation and whether it is agreeable or not.

A 4 percent across-the-board increase translates to millions of dollars of taxpayer money the council will have to fund. This will continue to be a source of frustration among County Council members.

Which county program funding should be cut or reduced to provide for the salary adjustments?

Follow the Maui County Council and HSAC Legislative Packages on mauicounty.us/2017stateleg.

Meanwhile, the council concluded its organization by establishing eight standing committees.

Council Member Riki Hokama continues to chair the Budget and Finance Committee and will lead the council in shaping the county’s budget for fiscal year 2018.

Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura now chairs the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee and will tackle intergovernmental affairs, board and commission appointments and business development issues.

Council Member Stacy Crivello retains her leadership of the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee. This committee maintains its jurisdiction over social programs, the Maui Bus and efforts to develop more housing for the county’s working families.

Council Member Elle Cochran continues to chair the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee. This provides her the ability to continue to lead discussions on a variety of conservation efforts.

Council Member Alika Atay has taken over the Water Resources Committee. This will allow him to consider long-standing water infrastructure concerns, including the lingering Upcountry water meter waiting list.

Council Member Bob Carroll continues to chair the Land Use Committee. The committee is already set in motion with a future meeting on Lanai early next month to consider certain conditional use permits.

Council Member Kelly King will chair the Planning Committee, with the Molokai Community Plan update and review of the community plan process as big-ticket items under her leadership.

Council Member Don Guzman will chair the Parks, Recreation, Energy and Legal Affairs Committee with operational oversight of the parks department and to take up cultural and energy issues. Litigation matters will also be handled by this committee.

For a full list of committees, its members and description, visit mauicounty.us.

Committee meetings will begin next week.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.