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Tuesday, March 2, 1999



CITY BUDGET

City & Couinty of Honolulu

Property taxes
steady; but higher
fees sought

Harris' plan to meet a
$130 million shortfall has a
garbage pickup fee

LeMahieu outlines effects

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Property taxes will remain roughly the same, but city garbage pickup will cost $2.20 a week.

Fees at municipal golf courses will rise 50 percent for most players, and motorists will pay an additional $10 annually in vehicle registration fees.

It's all part of Mayor Jeremy Harris' plan to meet a projected $130 million shortfall in the coming operating budget.

Harris today submitted his $1.02 billion operating budget to the City Council. It is $35 million less than the current year's plan, and the smallest in four years.

Also submitted was a $250 million capital improvements budget, $102 million less than this year.

Besides the additional fees, the shortfall is proposed to be met through an increase in the amount of carryover from the current year, restructuring of bond debt, leasing rather than purchasing new equipment, and proceeds and premiums from the sale of city land.

art

Harris said he has no choice but to propose freezing tax revenues at last year's levels. If rates stay the same in the face of declining property assessments, the city would collect $27 million less, he said.

Meanwhile, other sources of revenue, such as the city's share of the hotel room tax, have decreased, while costs such as employee benefits have increased.

If the plan is approved by the Council, it would be the second straight year that property tax rates have been adjusted to provide the same revenues.

The garbage pickup charge was suggested by the mayor's blue-ribbon budget panel. Most of the 174,000 customers served are single-family home dwellers, although there are some multi-family units and businesses as well.

Besides generating some $19 million in revenue, Harris said, the proposal reflects a shifting of the burden to those who use a service.

The refuse fees would be added to the bi-monthly water bill put out by the Board of Water Supply. Sewer fees are billed and collected in such a manner.

The fee would still be less than what other major municipalities charge their users, Harris said.

Vehicle registration fees are proposed to double from $10 to $20, the same the state charges as reflected on vehicle registration cards.

The fees are justified, Harris said, because of higher administrative, processing and enforcement costs involved with registering vehicles.

Weight tax fees would be unchanged.

Green fees and cart costs at municipal golf courses would increase by 50 percent, except for senior citizen and junior golfers.

Not going up are sewer fees, gas taxes or bus fees.

Helping the administration balance the budget were revenue gained by the sale of one property and the lease of another.

The city and Home Depot Inc. are negotiating the sale of the Pearl City Junction site for $17.5 million. With payment of the $15 million purchase, the city nets $2.5 million, Harris said.

Meanwhile, the city is due a lease premium of $8 million this year from developers of the Block J parcel downtown.

While the overall budget decreased, police, fire and emergency services department budgets are proposed to go up, reflecting more personnel and resources.

The administration hopes to bolster the ranks of police officers by creating and funding 90 new recruit positions and by adding a new training classroom.

More than a quarter of the capital improvements budget is earmarked for sewer projects, including the Hart Street pump station force main in Kalihi Kai.

It has $38 million for Harris' 19 visioning groups to spend on projects they deem worthy.


Dire effects projected
if education budget cut

Schools chief LeMahieu explains what
a 10 percent cut would mean

Cuts would hit sports hard

By Crystal Kua
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

The A+ after-school program and high-school athletics would be eliminated, hundreds of positions would be axed and school lunch would go up to $1 if the Department of Education had to cut its budget by 10 percent.

The department's proposals for up to $78 million in cuts are the result of a request by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to all state departments to look at ways to slash their budgets by 5 percent and 10 percent.

A detailed description of the cuts and their effects was submitted to the Senate money committee yesterday, Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said.

LeMahieu cautioned that, at this point, the proposed cuts are just an exercise initiated by the Legislature, scenarios contingent on tomorrow's expected projections by the Council on Revenues and the outcome of Gov. Ben Cayetano's revenue-generating proposals being considered by lawmakers.

The department on Feb. 19 submitted to the House Finance Committee a list of proposed cuts amounting to 2 percent of its budget.

In reaching the 10 percent cuts, the goal was to preserve three basic needs: teach children, feed them and keep them safe, LeMahieu said.

If the department's budget had to be cut 5 percent, or $39 million, he said, it would mean:

bullet $9.9 million to operate the A+ program would be cut, eliminating after-school care for 22,539 latchkey children.

bullet The athletic budget would be slashed 25 percent, or nearly $2.4 million, eliminating all junior varsity sports, some varsity sports such as soccer, judo, riflery, bowling and soft tennis, and assistant coaches in girls' and boys' cross-country, football, baseball and girls' softball. Funding for transportation, supplies and equipment would be cut $297,244.

bullet Adult education would be reduced 25 percent, or $1.3 million, resulting in 54 positions axed.

bullet The cost of a school lunch would be raised to $1, leading to $1.6 million more in revenue. The department says historically such a move leads to reduced paid-lunch participation and, therefore, results in decreased federal reimbursement.

bullet A total of 24.5 teaching positions would be cut in 35 high schools as part of the intensive basic skills program which helps to provide instruction to low-achieving students in language arts, math and other core classes. The amount of the cut would be $1.4 million

bullet Funding for neighbor-island programs such as the Keakealani outdoor education center in Volcano on the Big island, Kokee Discovery Center on Kauai, Molokai/Lanai Student Activities and the Maui Intermediate School Leadership Council would be eliminated.

bullet Funding would be eliminated for programs such as Youth Challenge, Onizuka Memorial Space Museum, Health Career Academies, Challenger Center and pregnant teen centers.

If the department's budget was cut 10 percent, he said, it would also mean:

bullet The remaining $5.6 million in the athletic budget would be axed, meaning athletic programs in all high schools would be eliminated.

bullet More than 800 positions, including teacher and counselor positions, would be cut, affecting the Comprehensive School Alienation Program, CORE Learning, Gifted and Talented, Instructional Resources Augmentation, Primary Instructional Needs and other programs.

bullet Schools would have $3.3 million less -- a 50 percent reduction -- in the school priority fund for schools to buy supplies, equipment, textbooks and services.

bullet Programs such as state and district student councils, the Artmobile, Art Exhibit and Artists in the Schools would be eliminated.

In a memo to Karen Knudsen, budget chairwoman of the Board of Education, LeMahieu said these 5-percent and 10-percent cuts are more than just painful.

"After eight years of consistent belt-tightening, it is our belief that, in the extreme case, they represent the dismantling of any pretense to a viable education system," LeMahieu wrote.

Knudsen said during yesterday's Budget Committee meeting that last year the department went through the same motions but came out of the Legislature virtually unscathed.

"This is just an exercise," she said. "We've done it so many years."

But LeMahieu said he is concerned about the long-term damage on relationships that just talking about such cuts can have even if they do not materialize.

"It clouds things forevermore," he said.



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