Kenoi’s Proposed $412M Budget Largest in Six Years
Mayor Billy Kenoi has proposed a $412.6 million Hawaii County budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, an increase of $18.4 million or 4.6% over the county’s current spending plan.
It marks the second annual increase in a row in the county’s budget after five years of declining spending.
But unlike last year, this year’s budget does not include any increases in property taxes.
It is also be the first to show an increase – of $9.4 million or 2.3% — over the budget he inherited when he took office in 2008.
The mayor said the budget is the product of an easing of the fiscal belt-tightening required by the Great Recession and a precipitous drop in property tax revenues, which are by far the county’s biggest single source of income.
“After five years of declining revenues, we are finally witnessing a modest, measured recovery in property values,” Kenoi said in his budget message sent to the County Council. “This will gradually translate into a stronger economy and a brighter budget picture.”
Property tax revenues are expected to increase by $13 million during the fiscal year beginning in July, a 5.9% increase over current levels.
Kenoi said the increase in next year’s budget corresponds with an $18.4 million increase expected in employee costs resulting from public worker arbitration and negotiations.
Those increases followed several years of furloughs or no wage increases.
Other revenue factors include $2.2 million more from hikes in vehicle registration and weight tax fees, and a $3.3 million carryover savings from the current year’s operations.
The county also saved about $1.5 million in debt service payments by the refinancing of old bond issues at lower interest rates.
Highlights of the 2014-15 budget include:
- An increase of $495,000 for the Planning Department for work on the General Plan update.
- Three temporary new grant-funded positions in the prosecutor’s office for victim services
- A $1.3 million increase for the Mass Transit Agency to cover increase in the cost of insurance and bus driver contracts
- Eight new positions in the Parks & Recreation for maintenance and recreation
The budget also contains an increase of $4.3 million for contributions to the retirement system resulting from new salary and wage costs established by the state Legislature.
Kenoi’s budget message did not specifically mention any contributions to future pension liabilities, commonly called the GASB 45 account. County officials did not immediately respond to a request for information about that funding.