WAILUKU - The "vast majority" of nonprofit groups seeking funding from the county most likely will see a 3 percent increase over current year allocations following actions by the Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday night, the committee chairman said Thursday.
Mike White's original budget proposal presented earlier this week kept nonprofit funding flat for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The council member explained that his budget blueprint kept funding at current levels because he understood that nonprofits were asked to submit a flat budget to Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration.
White said that some non-profit groups received increases and others did not in Arakawa's budget plan.
To be fair, he reduced funding in his proposal to current levels and left council committee members to decide the amounts at which they wanted to fund nonprofit groups.
"Our feeling is that all nonprofits are facing similar challenges with the increased load and so forth," White said, during a recess of his committee meeting Thursday.
"(The) reason why I made the change last night (Wednesday) is before we consider the additional positions for the county and before we include the various bargaining union increases, I felt it was important for us to show our support of nonprofits by recommending the 3 percent (increase)."
The increases do not cover funding for new nonprofit programs, and the committee was planning to revisit funding for some groups, who said they needed more than a 3 percent increase due to increased client load, he said.
How much the 3 percent will cost the county was not immediately available Thursday afternoon.
The committee will continue its review of the budget today at 9 a.m. It is working against an internal deadline of today and has reserved Saturday if needed to finish its version of the budget. The council has until June 10 to pass a budget or the mayor's budget will take effect.
White has proposed trimming Arakawa's proposed budget by $23 million to $551 million, which is $1 million more than the current fiscal year budget. White has proposed cutting new expansion positions but has suggested shuffling vacant positions within departments or between departments to make room for the new positions. He also has proposed trimming funding for programs showing leftover savings from this fiscal year.
White's proposed budget maintains current property tax levels. He has said he is open to tax rate increases if members wanted to put back funding for staff or programs.
Several council members said Thursday morning that they had received emails from constituents urging them not to allocate more funding to nonprofit groups, because they do not want to see their homeowner property taxes rise.
Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa said she has been asked by residents why the county was giving nonprofit groups "raises" at a time when the general public was not seeing any raises in their pay.
She asked one nonprofit director testifying Thursday morning if her organization was giving out raises.
Jeanne Unemori Skog, president of the Maui Economic Development Board, said her employees were not seeing any raises and were actually doing more with less. She was thankful that she had dedicated employees who work beyond their regular hours.
When asked by a council member what MEDB would do if it saw its funding dip, Skog said her organization would have to choose which programs to stop and possibly make adjustments to worker pay.
"It eliminates access to those under-served," she added.
MEDB was founded more than 30 years ago in part to stem the "brain drain" of young residents leaving Maui for better employment opportunities elsewhere. The nonprofit organization provides programs to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and more women into technology sector jobs.
Skog said what makes Maui so great is its nonprofit sector that touches every age group in the community.
When Council Member Don Couch asked if the community gets a "good return on (its) investment" to nonprofits, Skog replied: "Yes."
White said that homeowners should not worry about subsidizing nonprofit organizations because homeowners do not generate enough real property taxes to cover the funding. It's the business community that generates a lot of the funding for the entire county.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.