Hawai'i County’s Mayor has about three weeks to send a budget to the County Council. Since 2000, the budget has increased more than 250 percent. That’s a concern for county property owners, who are the primary source of funds. From Hawai'i Island, Sherry Bracken has more.
Many in Hawai'i County are concerned about the continuing rise in the County budget. More than seventy percent of it is paid for by property taxes. Eighteen years ago, the budget was $175 million dollars. Today, it’s $491 million dollars.
County managers are getting raises of up to 42,000 dollars a year, adding $1.3 million dollars to the next budget. Union negotiated raises will add nearly $13 million dollars.
Bill Walter is President of W. H. Shipman Ltd., a large Hawai'i Island landowner. He is also President of the Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce, although his comments are personal views. He notes the budget has nearly tripled in the last 18 years, and thinks it’s time for a thorough relook.
“That tripling cannot be explained by inflation or population growth or new services that we’re aware of. Two years in a row taxes will be increased. It’s a time when you step back and look at your government operations, just as we would in any other type of organization and really analyze the work. You carefully lay out every major process, look at every person that touches. You’re trying to make sure your organization is operating very efficiently. Besides that, is this function even necessary? You need to look too at services where you have user fees. How does what we’re collecting compare with expenses.”
The question is, is Hawai'i County Mayor Harry Kim ready to look at analyzing the cost and size of government? We asked the Mayor:
“No, no sense beating around the bush. I’m not saying streamlining some costs, that’s a yes. “
Although Kim has not yet released his planned budget, he referenced the need to add police and improve the County’s substandard bus system. He also said he’s considering subsidizing golf fees in West Hawai'i, since there is a low price County golf course in Hilo.