WAILUKU – The Maui County Council approved the $603.6 million budget for fiscal year 2015 on second and final reading Friday by an 8-0 vote, Councilmember Mike White announced today.
“We have a very good council,” White said. “I thank my colleagues, the staff and the public involved in crafting this important document.”
Bills 31–37 (2014) pertaining to the budget were based on the recommendations made by the Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by White.
White said the budget reflects a 3.1 percent reduction for all real property tax rates – relief for taxpayers that was prioritized by the committee. A $10 million appropriation for countywide mainline and water infrastructure improvements was also included.
Early in the budget session, a survey was conducted to ask residents how the council should focus on balancing the annual budget. White said 50 percent of respondents requested the council to reduce county expenditures, while 38 percent asked to maintain current levels of spending, and 12 percent suggested raising taxes and fees to expand programs.
White said the committee listened and declined increases proposed by the mayor in residential refuse collection and tipping fees and in water system development fees, particularly for 5/8-inch pipes.
While the budget is $18.5 million less than what the mayor had proposed, White noted support for long-term economic initiatives like funding for the expansion of the Kula Agricultural Park and Lahaina Boat Harbor upgrades. Funding for Play and Learn Sessions Program, or PALS, was also expanded, and appropriations were made for a Kihei multipurpose center.
Council members today applauded the leadership of Budget and Finance Committee Chair White.
“It’s a tremendous budget in difficult times,” Councilmember Riki Hokama said. “We must continue to ensure employees and retirees have confidence in the county by making sure their benefits are secured.”
Hokama suggested the Makawao-Haiku-Paia district, where White holds the residency seat, may have received the lowest level of appropriations, which demonstrated the committee chair’s fairness. “That doesn’t happen at other levels of government,” Hokama said.
“We represent the entire county,” Councilmember Michael Victorino said. “Every district meeting was jam-packed with testifiers.”
Councilmember Elle Cochran said she was initially uncertain about the process but gained clarity and said “hats off to the budget chair,” commending White’s “method to his madness.”
Councilmember Don Guzman thanked White for providing a “roadmap,” that guided members in the process. Guzman compared this year’s budget process with last year’s and found it “outstanding.”
Councilmember Stacy Crivello gave White kudos for his “patience.” “He was very understanding in dealing with the members and the public,” she said.
Council Chair Gladys Baisa thanked everyone involved in the budget process and said she enjoyed the camaraderie among her colleagues. “Council members have very difficult jobs, yet we continue to present what’s best for the community,” she said.
The FY 2015 budget now heads to the mayor for signature. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Council Vice-Chair Robert Carroll returned to vote for the budget after being away from the council because of an illness earlier in the budget session. Councilmember Don Couch was excused for personal business on Friday.