WAILUKU - A proposal to end furlough days for Maui County workers was deferred without objection Tuesday afternoon by members of the County Council's Budget and Finance Committee.
Panel Chairman Joe Pontanilla recommended the deferral.
The end of furloughs was among seven proposed budget amendments that would increase county spending in the current fiscal year. Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration proposed to appropriate more than $1 million to cover the costs of three furlough days - one in April, one in May and another in June.
In response to questions from council members, county Budget Director Sandy Baz assured them that a proposal to end furlough days in the current fiscal year would not have been suggested unless the administration were sure it had money to pay for it.
A Feb. 11 certification of additional revenues was presented to council members. It showed carryover savings from two previous fiscal years. The savings breakdown was $711,834 from the county's general fund, $97,509 from the highway fund, $73,938 from the wastewater fund, $56,290 from the solid waste fund and $136,712 from the water supply fund "We feel financially that the need for furloughs is not required," Baz said.
Council Member Mike White expressed hesitation with approving the budget amendment prior to looking at the 2012 fiscal year budget, which is expected to be presented to the County Council later this month.
"It's a little tough for me to make a decision at this point," White said.
Council Member Riki Hokama said he would rather wait for the new budget review and find out if furloughs could be waived then. He also said he'd prefer to use carryover savings to help taxpayers with possible reductions in county fees rather than making adjustments to the county payroll.
Council Members Gladys Baisa and Elle Cochran expressed support and confidence in the Arakawa administration's assessment of the county's current budget. Cochran said she trusted that finance officials looked at every angle and analyzed the current budgetary figures prior to making the proposal to end furlough days.
"I guess doing more with less just hasn't worked out," Cochran said.
Baisa said county workers have dealt with pay cuts and furlough days for nine months. She added that the budget amendment could have a positive impact on the community overall.
"This is money that will go into our local economy because it pays people's bills," Baisa said.
Council Member Mike Victorino said he supported giving money back to the furloughed workers, but he also was concerned about the impact of rising gas prices and the anticipated dramatic drop in visitors from Japan because of last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
"It's very difficult to make a decision that we have confidence in," Victorino said.
In the end, Pontanilla said that he wanted wait to get more answers to questions on the county's budget status, including anticipated revenues and losses.
"Before we move forward, I want to make sure," Pontanilla said. "We all need to make sure we're all moving in the right direction."
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