Honolulu City Council preparing to make big budget cuts - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Honolulu City Council preparing to make big budget cuts

Nestor Garcia Nestor Garcia
Ikaika Anderson Ikaika Anderson
Mark Oto Mark Oto

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a marathon budget meeting at Honolulu Hale council members are considering cutting funding to the Leeward Coast Community Benefit Program, Olelo Community Media, as well as Summer Fun and senior citizen programs.

The city is still waiting to hear if the state will take away as much as $20 million in tourism money.  In the meantime they're preparing for the worst going line by line, page by page through the big budget booklet.

"Rather than an axe we're taking a paring knife for now in this first go round," said Nestor Garcia, Budget Committee Chair during the special meeting.

They're talking about raising property taxes, parking fees and the fuel tax in addition to subtracting one and a half percent from the executive operating budget.

"A one and a half percent cut in operating expenses might mean the loss of warm bodies, people actual people," said Garcia.

There is also talk about taking money held for vacant positions saying there's no point expanding government when they're furloughing two days a month.

"We're furloughing existing people and we're going to hire more people. Where's the logic in that? So I find this whole exercise rather baffling," said Ikaika Anderson, Councilman representing Kailua, Waimanalo and Kaneohe.

Budget directors don't know how much money is tied up in vacant positions, but it's an idea managers don't like because once they lose that position and money they may not get it back.

"During the course of the year they may have to change.  Mid way through they say although we said we'd give up these vacant funded positions we really need it," said Mark Oto, Department of Budget and Fiscal Services Deputy Director, during the meeting.  "Just like a household, your household my household, if we see something, a downturn a job loss coming a year from now we want to plan for it.  If it means restricting our spending now that's what we do."

"We should never ever, ever ask our citizens for more money that is necessary to operate government in the current fiscal year we're looking at.  You folks earlier talked about you were possibly padding for next year, that's irresponsible," Anderson said to the Budget and Fiscal services directors.

Budget Chair Nestor Garcia has introduced a guillotine of cuts including millions to recreational programs.

"I did not hear anyone respond to that today. I was going to cut $20 million from Summer Fun and senior citizen programs all the programs the department of parks and recreation is responsible for. 21 million dollars, not one word today. So what does that say?" asked Chair Garcia.

There's still time to make your point.  The axe on the final budget doesn't fall until June.

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