Saturday, April 26, 2003

City & County of Honolulu

Mayor blasts
Council’s new cuts

Harris says trimming the
budget without raising property
taxes will hurt city services

Mayor Jeremy Harris says the City Council should raise property tax rates and not cut any more from the proposed $1.1 billion operating budget.

"The budget is as to the bone as it possibly can be, and in some cases, quite honestly, we've probably already cut it too far," Harris said. "We wouldn't have proposed the modest tax increase and the fees if they hadn't been absolutely necessary."

Harris's response came after the Council's Budget Committee, earlier this week, made just less than $2 million in cuts to the budget, which already saw department cuts of about 1 percent before being sent to the Council by the mayor.

Harris is proposing a property tax hike of $23 million and fee increases of $24 million to help balance the city's $1.1 billion budget. Some Council members are trying to find enough cuts to avoid having to raise taxes or fees.

But Harris said some of the Council's proposed cuts will have a drastic impact on city functions.

"The Council has made some very specific cuts to specific line items," Harris said, "and we simply think it's important that before any final decision-making both the public and the Council understand exactly what the ramifications are of each cut."

The mayor pointed out:

>> A $703,000 cut to an account that pays for the city's utility bills means the city will only be able to pay for nine months of electricity or six months of telephone service.

>> A $96,000 cut to satellite city hall accounts will result in two satellites closing.

>> Cuts to funding for Sunset on the Beach will lead to the program being eliminated outright, including the weekends that are sponsored by the city and the private sector. That is because not only was $140,000 for the city-sponsored event deleted, so was the money for city-paid support services such as trash pickup.

>> About 50 percent of the account for spare automotive parts was cut, meaning city vehicles will be down longer waiting to be repaired. "We'll have to just wait for the part to come before we can fix the refuse truck or the ambulance or the street sweeper, and that is just not efficient," the mayor said.

>> Neighborhood boards will receive a $30,000 cut in postage that will affect public dissemination of agendas, minutes and other mailings.

Harris said that complicating the budget picture will be the raise won by firefighters, which will cost the city 10 percent more.

"I did not budget for pay raises simply because of our tight financial situation, and the Council has the option of either not approving ... or they can approve, in which case they would have to, I believe, adjust the tax in some way to bring in the $2.1 million for the firefighters."

City & County of Honolulu

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