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2023 budget balances fiscal resources with community needs

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

As the Maui County Council is putting the final touches on its review of the mayor’s fiscal year 2023 budget, members have been busy weighing the county’s revenues and costs as well as the community’s needs for valuable services.

Whether caring for our seniors, offering housing assistance for those in need, rescuing neglected animals or providing recreational opportunities for all ages, the county provides an incredible variety of services and programs that benefit all members of our community in meaningful ways.

To that end, I have supported and introduced priority budget proposals for the coming fiscal year that continue this legacy of serving our residents and visitors to keep them safe, cared for and thriving in a healthy environment. Preserving our communities, our islands and our natural resources can be costly, but it is vital to maintaining the overall health of our ‘aina and our people for generations to come.

One of the top priority proposals I introduced this budget cycle was $90,000 for professional services to support the first-ever Maui Community Outreach Court. This alternative court system, modeled after a highly successful program on Oahu, would initially be launched by the Maui County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in coordination with the state Judiciary and Office of the Public Defender.

The Community Outreach Court will provide an opportunity for those charged with nonviolent offenses, like many in our unsheltered population, to seek a restorative, cooperative manner to the adjudication of those lower-level crimes — which is an important step in helping individuals finally break the cycle of homelessness.

A district-related proposal I put forward was $200,000 for an engineering study in the Kahului neighborhood of Palama Drive, to address the negative impacts this community has suffered for many years, especially insufficient drainage during times of heavy rainfall.

I also addressed a critical issue that has come to light recently — supporting child victims of sex trafficking — with my priority proposal of $140,000 for Parents & Children Together, known as PACT. This funding will add two full-time employees at PACT to assist with counseling of victims of sex and other forms of human trafficking, as well as needed outreach, education and mentoring in our community, schools and with other agencies.

Additionally, my line-item increase of $250,000 for the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation, or HARF, will assist with the completion of HARF’s animal welfare and public education facility in Waihee. The 5,000-square-foot multiuse barn is nearly complete, and this one-time appropriation will allow HARF to carry out its mission of rescuing animals and providing educational outreach and therapeutic programs for students and residents of Maui County.

As a truly no-kill rescue center, HARF acquires much of its annual funding from private sources and through small donations from numerous individuals. This county funding is a relatively small — but important and timely — portion of the final phase of construction on this much-needed facility that will also serve larger animals such as horses and cows.

The public still has several opportunities to provide testimony on the budget with council’s proposed amendments, including public hearings on Friday for the proposed rates on real property tax, vehicle weight tax and vehicle fuel tax. All three rates are set by resolution. The council is expected to act on the real property tax resolution on Friday and the other two resolutions on May 26.

The bills that set the operating and capital program budgets along with those authorizing the administration to issue bonds and use bond revenue greater than the cost of projects they were issued for (“lapsed bonds”) will be given first reading at the council meeting of May 26, with second reading at Council on June 8. You are welcome to testify about the budget at the public hearings or at the council meetings, either in person in the Council Chamber on the eighth floor of the county building, or virtually on the BlueJeans platform.

* Tasha Kama is chair of the Human Concerns and Parks Committee. She holds the council seat for the Kahului residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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