Oahu residents react to city budget proposal

Dr. Stephen Foley
Dr. Stephen Foley
Councilmember Todd Apo
Councilmember Todd Apo
Mayor Mufi Hannemann
Mayor Mufi Hannemann

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAIMUKI (KHNL) - Oahu residents react a day after Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann unveiled his $1.8 billion budget. He proposed several ideas to close a $50 million budget shortfall. And some Oahu residents are worried about what this could mean for their wallet.

Stephen Foley cleaned up his garage before he headed off to work Friday. This ob/gyn doc has lived in this Kaimuki neighborhood for about two years now. Like many people, he's had to tighten his budget, but he may have to tighten it even more. Mayor Hannemann is proposing raising property taxes to close the budget gap.

"My sense is if we're better educated on how property taxes are actually spent, I would have a better sense of duty and willingness to pay extra taxes if I felt they were spent in the right way," said Foley.

Under the proposed plan, property tax would go up 30 cents per every thousand dollars of property of value, to $3.59. So an average Oahu single family home could see an increase of $124 a year.

For Foley, it would mean about $240 more he has to shell out each year.

"There has to be a belt tightening that goes all around," he said. "And I would like to see belt tightening from the mayor's office downwards and everybody taking a percentage cut in their salary."

The mayor has done just that, proposing a five percent cut for all appointed positions in his office. And his budget isn't a done deal just yet. It still has to be approved by the city council.

"We'll go through the month of march some pretty heavy budget briefings," said Todd Apo, Honolulu City Council Chair. "We'll have each department director come in and explain their budget, and ask some questions about what's going on in their department."

The mayor said raising property taxes is a last resort measure to make up for the budget shortfall.

"I wish there was more checks and balances to make sure we the customer are protected more because I find that the working class, the middle class, they're the ones who bear the brunt of most of the prices in Hawaii," said Foley.

Besides hearing from department heads, the city council will take testimony from Oahu residents. The budget should be finalized by June 10.

The mayor's budget also calls for increased costs for public transportation and other fees. It could cost you a quarter more to ride the bus, or $10 more if you buy a monthly pass.

And speaking of a quarter, the zoo parking lot fees would go up from 25 cents an hour to a $1.50.

"That's a little unfair," said Kate Feider, a Moanalua resident who was visiting the zoo with her children. "We all need a break and parking is one more thing we need a break on."

And the admissions fee to the Honolulu Zoo could go up from $4 to $5 for Hawaii residents, from $8 to $12 for non-residents, and $1 to $3 for children.