Honolulu mayor’s claim $26 million shortfall just days into fiscal year

The campaign of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell received among the largest contributions from the Operating Engineers Hawaii Industry Stabilization Fund
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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU – When the Hawaiian Humane Society asked the City & County of Honolulu administration  for an $800,000 increase to its $2.3 million budget, the administration told the agency there would be no additional money. The city is facing a $26 million shortfall.

The disclosure came as a big surprise toHonolulu City Council Budget Chair Ann Koabayshi and other council members. The fiscal year started July 1.


“How did it suddenly appear?” Kobayashi asked.

Just weeks before, on June 6, the nine-member council approved the final operating and capital-improvement budget for the fiscal year. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwelllet the budget become law just days later without his signature. He never voiced fiscal concerns.

“What shortfall is the mayor talking about?” Kobayashi said, noting the council passed a $2-billion operations and capital improvement budget that balanced. “The mayor could have vetoed the budget if he wanted to, but he didn’t.”

Kobayashi said the mayor had not contacted her to discuss the budget, but she said the budget department recently attributed the shortfall to the council’s refusal to increase gasoline taxes ($15 million), the council’s decision to spend $8 million on grants-in-aid for the community and the council plan to spend another $3 million on “miscellaneous” programs and projects.

“Hawaii already has the highest gas taxes in the nation. We did not pass another increase as the mayor wanted. Get over it. That revenue the mayor wanted was never included in the budget,” Kobayashi said.

City spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke told the media that the city would be briefing council members and city departments, but hinted some of the problem also is tied to the council’s refusal to fund the city’s vacant positions and public union raises.

Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said the administration was not happy with the council’s decision to remove funding totaling about $65 million for vacant positions that have not been filled in years.

The council arranged it so rather than having a slush fund of money from vacant positions, the departments would have to justify the request to the managing director or mayor, who would approve new hires, Kalapa said.

“Is it appropriate to keep on funding the city’s vacant positions when the city is really using the money for other things? That is not a good way to run the city,” Kalapa said. “All the council is asking the mayor to do is justify the vacant position that have been vacant for years.”


Kalapa said he doesn’t want to take sides, but understands why the City Council members are bewildered by the mayor’s claim.

Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi

“There is a process the City Council, budget department and mayor go through to arrive at the final budget, and if the budget department thought the budget did not balance, they should have told the mayor and he should have vetoed it,” Kalapa said. “Now we are just weeks into the new fiscal year and the mayor is yelling ‘fire!’ That doesn’t work.”

Since the first-term mayor has not contacted her directly, Kobayashi said she hopes to get to the bottom of his concerns at the Aug. 21 City Council budget hearing.

The $400 million likely needed for negotiated pay increases for police and fire departments already has been set aside, Kobayashi said, noting union negotiations could not cause a shortfall at this point.

Police, meanwhile, will be taking over the public nuisance duties, such as responding to dogs barking and rosters crowning, which normally are handled by the Hawaiian Humane Society.

“Why should the police be responding to barking dog complaints. They have to sit there and listen to dogs barking for 20 minutes before they can do anything about it. We need the police in other areas,” Kobayashi said.





  1. Oh ,oh….. here come the higher fees…they will go after the pooooor workers pay check, that they already eat at mcdonalds, or fixed income retierees in property tax…..they have no fresh or un threatning ideas to bail themselves out ,only to whip and rope around the neck the hard working people of hawaii……everything goes up but our paychecks…..very sickining…..las vegas lives on hawaii peoples losses, keep the money here…..flood the hotels with gaming machines, no live gaming, only machines,..watch what happens…..have that pay for everything…..

  2. Hawaii is run by the corrupt council (imho) who is guided by developers promises. l'm w/you Conrad, Give us a lottery or have a designated area just for gaming machines. l'm sure the airlines companies would fight against it since they would lose the vegas flight money. A lottery would be good also, the tax would be substantial.

  3. Caldwell's transportation dept. can't even do parking spaces right….A metered parking stall on a busy Honolulu street is right next to a fire hydrant.!!!!
    "…..The city says it’s a mistake that will be fixed.
    There’s a bit of confusion over the space on South King Street near Pensacola Street…"
    Read more at https://www.khon2.com/2013/08/21/city-makes-parkin

  4. Even BINGO would be a contributor since so many locals support the military based games. Traditionally there have always been "private" gambling dens in Hawaii, along with poker games, football/sports betting where millions change hands yearly.

  5. WHICH city do you think the NY Times reported on; "There are xxx abandoned buildings in this city standing in various levels of decay. Services have fallen into dysfunction, and debts are piling ever higher. …"
    It's Detroit, yet Honolulu seems similar eh?
    If anyone knows Caldwell's e-mail, please forward this link to him; https://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/us/dreams-but-l

    Wait till our rail expenses are added too…

  6. Well, my guess is he tried to hide the loss of these money but couldnt so he had to admit they're gone. I wonder how much money are actually missing, because im sure there have to be more than 26 milion

  7. Well, what better time to notive you're a bit short on your budget than a few days before the fiscal year ends? I wonder when did they find out and how they tried to cover up the facts…

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