Counties grapple with not only natural disasters, but costs associated with them

PAHOA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A pair of major natural disasters is costing the governments on two islands as they try to craft budgets for the coming fiscal year.

Hawaii County's proposed budget of $518 million was drafted before lava began coming out of the ground in Leilani Estates.

The county has $6 million already set aside for disasters, but it may run out as the eruption of Kilauea continues.

"We do have a disaster fund, but you know, that won't last for the whole entire disaster, and I think the hardest part is that we don't know how long it's going to last," said county Finance Director Deanna Sako.

The eruption has also destroyed more than 50 structures -- mostly homes -- which means less property tax revenue for the county.

"It could be $3 million. It could be $6 million. It could be up to $12 million. We just don't know at this point in time," said County Councilwoman Eileen O'Hara, who represents the area of lower Puna where the lava fissures have opened.

The disaster is also draining the budget for overtime pay, such as those for police officer and highway workers. Sako said the county has spent $750,000 on overtime during the first half of May alone.

The county could get money from FEMA, but that takes time.

Officials say the Big Island is still owed $2 million to $3 million for damage from Tropical Storm Iselle and the lava flow that threatened Pahoa, both in 2014.

Last month's flooding is also draining funds for Kauai County. Besides losing more than 100 homes and critical roadways, the north shore's tourism economy is shattered.

"We set aside $5 million specific for recovery, and of that we've already run up $2.5 million, so that's set aside there," said Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.

Kauai has a list of 90 repair projects for which it's getting state funding. And roads aren't cheap. The section of Weke Road that got ashed out near the Hanalei Pier is estimated to cost nearly $3 million to fix.

Gov. Ige signed an agreement Thursday to release the first $25 million of its $100 million flood recovery fund set aside for the Garden Isle.

The Big Island would also like some kind of appropriation, but unless there's a special legislative session, that may have to wait until next year.

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