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Friday, April 25, 2003



City & County of Honolulu

Council’s first try at
budget cuts falls short


The first swing of the budget ax by a City Council committee has not yielded enough cuts yet to stave off a property tax increase.

While Mayor Jeremy Harris has proposed increasing real property tax rates to raise $23 million to balance the city's $1.1 billion operating budget, the first draft of the Council's version of the budget came up with cuts of just less than $2 million.

But Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi says yesterday's draft was just the first pass.

"We're trying to cut back everywhere we can," Kobayashi said.

The Budget Committee sent for public hearing the legislative, executive and capital improvement budget bills, along with several bills for fee increases. All the bills related to the budget will be heard by the Council at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Councilman Charles Djou, who opposes raising taxes, voted against the operating budget bill because he said it does not go far enough in cutting spending and will necessitate increasing taxes.

"The Council members are either going to have to enact the largest tax increase ever ... or they have to get a lot more aggressive (in cuts)," Djou said.

Djou had proposed lopping 10 percent to 75 percent off departmental expenses to negate the need for a tax increase. Most of his proposals, however, were not included in the first of two drafts.

Casualties so far in the budget include:

>> Sunset on the Beach, which had its funding eliminated. That means the popular event that the city sponsors once a month is being cut, but Kobayashi said Sunset on the Beach activities sponsored by private-sector organizations the other three weekends of the month can continue. About $140,000 for Brunch on the Beach, however, remains intact.

>> $260,000 in economic development activities including sports tourism marketing, Chinatown and downtown marketing and Family Day. Some Council members proposed eliminating the city Office of Economic Development because they felt that it was a duplication of other government agencies, but Kobayashi said some of what the office does -- including assisting the film industry -- is needed.

>> Satellite city halls, which had nearly $100,000 in funding cut. Some Council members were eyeing closing at least one of the 11 facilities, but Kobayashi said it will be up to the administration to determine how the cuts would be instituted. Some $218,000 in satellite city hall renovation funds were also cut.



City & County of Honolulu
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