Hawaii Island County Mayor Billy Kenoi urged the Hawaii County Council to tell the public immediately where it intends to cut $23 million from the administration’s proposed budget during a press conference Monday, May 24.
“The public deserves a fair hearing,” Kenoi said. “If Council members intend to cut $23 million from the budget, I think we all deserve to know where they intend to do that. Which programs and services are going to take the hit? The Council must present its budget cuts in an open, transparent manner to give the public a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment.
“My administration and I have studied this budget, our current economy and the critical needs of our island, and created the fairest, most balanced budget we could that maintains our core County services.
“I don’t know where the Council will find areas to cut $23 million out of the budget without hitting vital public services and affecting the welfare of our residents,” Kenoi said. “The cuts will have to be deep, and they will be devastating. A decision of this magnitude will affect almost every resident and family in our community. The public has a right to know with enough time for review and comment.”
The Council on May 19 gave preliminary approval to the County budget without detailing any of the cuts it intends to make. The Council has scheduled a final vote on the budget for June 7. Budget proposals made that day by Council members also may be adopted by the Council that day.
“The County Council has been studying my administration’s balanced budget proposal since March, but has yet to propose any substantive cuts or adjustments. Meanwhile, my administration and I have been on the road to explain it to residents at community meetings held around the island,” Kenoi said.
“I respectfully urge the Hawaii county Council to immediately provide full disclosure of its alternate plans to cut $23 million from the proposed budget,” he said. “The Council owes it to the community to provide ample opportunity for the public to fully understand the dramatic impacts these cuts would have on our island.”
How big is $23 million in the context of the County’s $376 million budget?
To give you an example, cutting the County’s budget by $23 million covers all of the following programs and services provided by the County of Hawai`i (FY 2010-2011 estimated):
- All election operations in the County of Hawai`i ($1,097,695)
- The entire County Civil Defense Agency ($1,678,137)
- The entire Hele-On County bus system ($5,667,336)
- All County grants to non-profit agencies ($1,500,000)
- All programs within the Department of Parks & Recreation’s recreation division ($2,295,147)
- All summer fun programs ($525,017)
- The entire county Aquatics Division for County pools ($2,240,118)
- All school-based DARE police anti-drug programs ($34,125)
- The entire volunteer firefighter training program ($427,126)
- All Fire Department building inspections to ensure compliance with County Fire Code ($2,025,087)
- All lifeguard services at County beach parks ($1,845,340)
- All Elderly Activities services including RSVP, Coordinated Services for seniors and senior nutrition programs ($3,425,258)