Honolulu mayor's budget ends furloughs and raises user fees

Peter Carlisle
Peter Carlisle
Nestor Garcia
Nestor Garcia

By Lisa Kubota - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle presented his administration's first executive budget on Wednesday. The mayor said a projected $100 million operating budget gap was closed through city cost-cutting measures and tax collections from property valuations that were higher than expected. His spending plan for the next fiscal year would end furloughs, but city workers would still face cuts. The furloughs affecting roughly 5,200 city workers would end on July 1.

"They will end at long last and return in my opinion to the dark depths from whence they came," said Carlisle.

But the administration wants a minimum savings of 5% in labor costs to be decided through collective bargaining.

"The goal of this administration is to generate across the board labor savings to all city employees regardless of which public labor union they belong to," said the mayor.

The budget reduces capitol improvement spending, excluding rail transit. The new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit will take over the project in July.

The operating budget includes a three-year increase in the fuel tax which is currently 16.5 cents. The mayor said the hike is needed to help maintain city roadways. The tax would increase by one cent the first year, followed by increases of two cents and three cents, respectively, in the following two years.

Some user fees would rise under the administration's plan. Here is the list of proposed increases:

Sewer fees, 4%

Drivers license fees, $2

Golf at city courses, $2 per round of 18 holes

Golf at city courses, $3.50 for seniors and the disabled per round of 18 holes

Zoo entrance, $1-4

Auditorium rental, varies

Employee monthly parking, $13

"I think that's a good idea. I think people need to understand that you need to pay in order to get the services that you've been used to getting," said Honolulu City Council chair Nestor Garcia.

As for residential real property taxes, homeowners pay $3.42 and non-homeowners pay $3.58 per one thousand dollars of assessed value. Under a new consolidated classification, the rate would be set at $3.50

"Overall, property valuations and what we will tax remains flat," said Carlisle.

"It all depends on your perspective. The guys who are non-homeowners are glad to see a property tax decrease. Those who are resident homeowners feel it's a property tax hike," said Garcia.

The $1.9 billion executive operating budget increases spending by about 6%.

"The two largest increases by far are $48 million in debt service and a $45 million increase in employee health and retirement expenses," explained Carlisle.

The operating budget numbers are based on the city continuing to receive a share of the hotel room tax and the public service company tax.

"The city is relying on every dollar to balance our budget," said Carlisle.

The changes will have to be approved by the City Council. Members must sign off on the spending plan by mid-June.

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