Council tackles budget, audits and polystyrene

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

On Friday, the council approved on first reading the fiscal year 2018 budget. Final reading is scheduled for May 30 and if passed, will advance to the mayor. The new budget will take effect on July 1.

There were many challenges in balancing this year’s budget due to additional state mandates, collective bargaining agreements and the lack of action by the state Legislature to allocate a greater share of the transient accommodation tax to counties. Despite this, the council felt it was important to continue many important program and services. 

The council received numerous budgetary requests, but with limited resources and the desire to not overburden taxpayers, not all wishes could be fulfilled. It is a delicate balance the council must continually consider.

Notable appropriations in the fiscal year 2018 budget include:

• $5.2 million for road resurfacing projects, a top priority, as identified by residents, 74 percent more than the mayor’s proposal, for a total of $15.1 million in road, bridge and drainage projects.

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

• $2.2 million for homelessness and affordable housing programs.

• $4.6 million to address issues including watershed management, eradication of coqui frogs, miconia, and other invasive species, like the rat lungworm disease.

• $4.3 million in construction funds for parking expansion and office space to assist in the revitalization of Wailuku town.

• Over $3.7 million in cultural and economic development programs.

• $2.4 million for agricultural programs and the acquisition of lands to expand the Kula Agricultural Park and to create an agricultural park on Lanai.

• $1.7 million for improvements to the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku.

• $6.7 million in capital improvements to county park facilities.

• Over $34.8 million in capital improvement projects to improve the county’s water and wastewater infrastructure.

The council also focused on creating operational efficiencies through department audits. Resolution 17-78 was adopted earlier this month and authorizes a management and performance audit of the Department of Fire and Public Safety. The department has often requested amendments to its budget to complete the fiscal year without a deficit. Most recently, it requested an additional $913,000 to cover premium pay and moved over $345,000 in funds from its administration, prevention and training programs to cover day to day fire operations. The department’s fiscal year 2018 request is over $35 million and is a sizable expense for the county.

The audit will focus on the department’s organizational structure, including its span of control and staffing formula, a time study on whether the deployment of services is sufficient or can be improved, and whether overall funds are appropriated in the most efficient manner.

The council also set aside funds for an audit of the county’s Department of Transportation to understand if its $17.4 million in transportation services can be utilized in a more efficient manner. The full scope of the audit must still be passed by the council.

Aside from the budget, the council also passed Bill 127 (2016) on Thursday, which restricts the use and sale of polystyrene foam food service containers.

The restriction is limited to blown polystyrene and expanded and extruded foams, which can easily breakdown. In an earlier meeting, the council decided to narrow the scope and not restrict polystyrene outright, since it is used in numerous types of packaging products.

Food containers used for raw or butchered meats, poultry, fish or eggs unless provided for consumption without further food preparation are not included in the restriction. It also does not apply to foam coolers and ice chests designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.

An exemption exists if unique packaging is used for a specific type of food and no reasonable alternative is available.

The bill was first introduced by Council Member Michael Victorino in 2011 and again in 2013 and is the culmination of deliberations by both the council and a special working group.

The community will be given time to prepare and identify alternative products to comply with this new ordinance. The restriction will take effect on Dec. 31, 2018.

* 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.

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