Hawai‘i County Council approves first reading of $1.19 billion budget for FY 2023-24
May 18, 2023, 3:09 PM HST
During a special meeting on Thursday, the Hawai‘i County Council approved the first reading of the County’s proposed fiscal year 2023-24 operating and capital budgets that total nearly $1.19 billion.
The proposed operating budget is $831,663,759, a 5.8% increase from the previous fiscal year and an additional $37.3 million from Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitch Roth’s original budget request in March.
According to the mayor’s office, the second draft of the operating budget reflects higher than expected real property tax collections by about $19 million and includes increased revenue projections of approximately $6.29 million for the general fund balance and $10.6 million for the general excise tax fund balance.
The proposed capital budget seeks a total appropriation of $358,528,000 for fiscal year 2023-24, an increase of $13 million from the mayor’s suggested capital spending plan put forth in March, also due to the increased revenue estimates. The County’s 6-year capital improvements program also proposes 47 projects now instead of the 44 outlined two months ago.
The proposed operating budget calls for 56 new positions for several departments, including dispatchers for the Hawai‘i Fire Department and water safety officers at Kohanaiki Beach Park in Kona.
The first amendment, brought forward by Councilmember Ashley Kierkiewicz, increases the proposed general fund balance by $35,000 and adds a new line item in the same amount to the Fire Auxiliary Services account for a new dispatch quality assurance program. The funds would be used to evaluate calls and develop training materials based on that evaluation for current and new employees of fire dispatch in an effort to improve standard operating procedures and customer service.
The amendment was approved 7-0, with Council members Rebecca Villegas and Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder absent at the time of the vote.
The second amendment, introduced by Council Chair Heather Kimball, adds $870,756 to the proposed general fund balance in anticipation of a new Hawai‘i County Office of Sustainability, Climate, Equity and Resilience. The amendment makes sure there are funds available next fiscal year for the proposed new office and its five-person staff if its creation is approved.
The new office would coordinate and manage County policies and programs to address sustainability, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change and other natural and human-caused hazards.
Council members approved the amendment 6-2, with Villegas absent and Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder and Councilwoman Cindy Evans voting no after expressing hesitation about funding an office that hasn’t been created yet.
The first reading of the proposed operating budget, with those amendments, was approved 8-0, with Villegas absent.
Of the proposed $358 million for the capital budget, $295.6 million would be funded by bonds, $26.9 million by federal grants, $33.8 million by the state revolving loan fund, $900,000 by the state capital improvements program and $1.5 million through community benefit assessments and general excise tax.
The Council considered one amendment to the proposed capital budget, introduced by Council Vice Chairman Holeka Inaba, that would add one project, the construction of a lifeguard tower at Kohanaiki Beach Park, and $120,000 to fund it. Council members approved the amendment 8-0, with Villegas absent.
The proposed capital budget for fiscal year 2023-24 and the revised six-year capital improvements program, with that amendment, were approved 8-0, with Villegas absent.
“This budget represents a seismic shift in how the County is doing business,” Kierkiwiscz said.
She said the Council and County have been pining for a long time for many of the investments the spending plan would make, but now can do so because the cashflow is finally available.
“If we don’t make these investments, I worry about the problems and the cost to environment, to our workforce, financially to future generations if we’re not taking steps now to solve for these challenges before they get bigger,” Kierkiewicz said.
The County’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
The Council will take up second readings for the proposed operating and capital spending plans on June 1. It is likely a few more amendments will be introduced at that meeting before the budget is finalized.
To read the latest operating budget proposal, click here. You can find the updated capital budget here.