Budget done, standing committees return to stage

Now that the County Council has passed the fiscal year 2015 budget on second and final reading, the council’s eight standing committees return to the stage for their regular rotation of work.

Committee chairs are busy deciding what items should be placed on upcoming meeting agendas, and they welcome constituents’ suggestions. On mauicounty.gov, under the “Council” tab, users can select a committee to identify the committee chair, contact information and pending items.

The council refers bills, resolutions and other items to its committees, and then each committee chair has the discretion to set agendas from the list of pending items. Public input can make a difference in determining what gets scheduled.

At press time, the budget was headed to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s desk for approval. Budget and Finance Committee Report 14-60, available on the committee’s website, provides a comprehensive rundown of the council-approved financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

Through compromise and strategic planning, the council was able to increase overall community investment by almost 8 percent compared to fiscal year 2014, while also lowering property tax rates by about 3 percent. Water system development fees, in particular 5/8-inch water meters, are also being decreased, at least temporarily, as the council continues to seek equitable means of acquiring water source.

The county realized about $2.2 million more in hotel-room-tax revenue from the state than was originally projected. While Maui County deserves much more, this revenue wouldn’t have been obtained without an intensive lobbying effort at the state Legislature over the last year.

The county fiscal year 2015 budget invests in social services, public safety, environmental sustainability and capital improvements throughout the county.

A total of $800,000 is being appropriated for the Lanai and Molokai community health centers.

While generally wary of adding new positions, the council decided it was prudent to add personnel to support the successful PALS (Play and Learn Sessions) youth program.

Including departmental operation costs, the council is appropriating $92.8 million for water projects, $57.9 million for parks construction, $44.2 million for road improvements and $1 million each for the Kaunakakai Police Station and Kula Agricultural Park.

The council bolstered the county’s partnership with the nonprofit sector by providing a modest funding increase for most service agencies. This will help ensure taxpayer funds continue to be used efficiently to do the most good for the most people.

New grants are being made to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation for harbor improvements and the Maui Economic Development Board for business and job creation.

On Oahu this Thursday and Friday, the Hawaii State Association of Counties holds its annual conference. The conference provides a unique opportunity to learn about local governments’ work on clean energy and climate change, and features visitor industry workshops and a discussion on the 21st-century workforce.

Speakers include Leslie Wilkins of Women in Technology, state sustainability coordinator Jacqueline Kozak-Thiel, Mike McCartney of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Dr. Patrick Sullivan, CEO of Oceanit, a Honolulu-based technology firm. To register for the HSAC conference or for more information, go to HSAC-2014.eventbrite.com.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.


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