Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Maui County Council
might audit projects

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU - Several Maui County Council members say they want to conduct audits to check cost overruns in projects begun by the former Lingle administration.

"I think the public needs to know why," council Chairman Patrick Kawano said.

Kawano said the council was still reviewing the budget and declined to name the projects that might be audited.

Major projects with cost overruns include $11 million Keopuolani Park, initially contracted at $9.1 million, and the $5.4 million Maui landfill, which eventually cost $6.2 million.

Former Mayor Linda Lingle said county departments already are audited each year by an independent accounting firm and that the County Council authorized all the money spent for the projects.

She said the council has a lot of inexperience and frustration about how to balance the budget.

Discussion about audits comes as newly elected Mayor James "Kimo" Apana is proposing increases in fees and property tax rates to meet rising costs and less revenue.

Under Apana's proposal, the average homeowner would face an increase of $230 in real property taxes for an increase of 38.6 percent.

Lingle said the council should be looking at Apana's estimated revenues and spending.

She disagrees with Apana's decision to increase taxes, while adding new positions in the mayor's office.

"I think you send the wrong message," she said.

"I think it's ridiculous. People are working hard just to make it. Any time you have a weak economy you want to find ways to reduce taxes, not increase taxes."

Kawano and council Budget Chairman Wayne Nishiki say Apana will not get as much of a tax increase as requested, in light of public testimony opposing more taxes.

The Maui County Council has up to May 31 to revise the spending plan before sending it to the mayor.

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