Maui County Council’s 2017 year in review
CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES
As 2017 comes to an end, it seems appropriate to reflect on a few of the strides the Maui County Council has made over the past year.
From a numbers perspective, the council issued 199 committee reports, adopted 182 resolutions, passed 104 bills, and received 491 county communications.
Not surprisingly, a number of the actions relate to both the passage of the annual budget and amendments to the budget. For fiscal year 2018, the annual operating budget, which was passed as Bill 65, set forth expenditures of over $562 million to operate the county. This includes salaries, wages and benefits for employees, grants to nonprofits, equipment and other expenses for general operations.
Operational highlights include: keeping the Waiehu Golf Course open; $4.6 million allocated for watershed management and the eradication of coqui frogs, miconia, rat lungworm disease and other threats to our environment; $2.2 million for homelessness and affordable rental housing programs; over $9.6 million in grants to support community social and transportation services; and over $3.7 million in cultural and economic development programs.
The budget also set forth over $142 million in capital improvement projects in Bill 64. These are larger projects and often include a construction component. Notable projects include: $29.7 million in road, bridge and drainage projects; $6.7 million in county park improvements; and $34.8 million to improve the county’s water and wastewater infrastructure.
Throughout the year, the administration also requests amendments to the budget for unanticipated expenses. The council understands flexibility is needed to address urgent community needs. Therefore, it considers numerous amendments throughout the year.
Another notable piece of legislation is Bill 101, an amendment to qualifications for the circuit breaker tax credit, which provides homeowners with property tax relief if their property taxes exceed 2 percent of their household income and their income is under $100,000.
Bill 46 set forth a policy for the Department of Parks and Recreation to award and administer concessions and sponsorships at park facilities. With limited resources, an effort is being made to generate additional revenue to maintain public spaces. Safeguards were also put in place to ensure the character of our parks is maintained.
Additionally, come Dec. 31, 2018, food providers will be prohibited from using, selling, providing or offering the use of polystyrene food service containers because of the passage of Bill 127. The implementation of this law was delayed to allow businesses to prepare for the changes and deplete any current polystyrene stock.
With a continued focus on creating affordable housing, Bill 89 amended Chapter 2.96 relating to the Residential Workforce Housing Policy. The bill created additional incentives to construct affordable rental housing by expanding the issuance of housing credits. The previous policy only allowed units sold to receive credits, without providing incentives to develop rental units.
In addition, under Hawaii’s fast-track housing law, Resolution 17-159 was adopted to approve a proposal from GTH Land Co. for a 100 percent affordable housing project in Hana. The project includes plans to develop approximately 7.22 acres into 25 developable single-family lots with the option for an ohana unit on each parcel. Parcel prices will range from $118,150 to $206,750.
Throughout the year, the council also initiated audits to ensure effective and efficient operations. Resolution 17-78 authorized an audit of the Department of Fire and Public Safety, with a focus on its fiscal management. Resolution 17-117 was passed to allow an audit to identify any possible duplication of transportation services and analyze overall transportation services. Both reports are expected in early 2018.
Many pieces of important legislation passed this year, but there is much more to be done. On behalf of the Maui County Council, we wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to working with you in 2018!
* Mike White is chairman 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.