Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Dela Cruz backs
budget hike

The Council chairman says
a 33% jump in spending is partly
due to this fall's elections

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz defended a $2.6 million jump in the proposed Council budget while the Council is looking at cutting the budgets of city departments.

City & County of Honolulu

"It's not frills," Dela Cruz said yesterday.

Critics of the Council budget increase include Mayor Jeremy Harris -- who took the Council to task earlier this week for contemplating chopping department budgets while its budget is going up -- and members of the Council.

"I think if we're going to call on the rest of the city to be cut, which we need to do, we need to cut ourselves as well," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall told colleagues earlier this week.

For the current fiscal year, the Council was appropriated just over $9 million for its budget. The administration for the next fiscal year has proposed $9.4 million for the Council, but the Council budget has proposed a $12 million budget for itself, a 33 percent increase.

The two big cost items of the Council budget for the next fiscal year include $1.1 million to run this fall's elections, a cost which occurs every other year.

The other item is $815,000 to organize next year's National Association of Counties conference that will be held in Honolulu next year. The amount is based on estimates from previous conferences, Dela Cruz's staff said.

Dela Cruz said he is trying to find other sources of funding to help defray the cost of organizing the conference, including getting help from the state Legislature.

"The Council budget is a little bit skewed because the city clerk's budget always goes up with the election. It's also skewed because of NACO," Councilman Charles Djou said.

But Djou said he's not happy with the overall Council budget.

"Outside of these two spending increases, I think the Council should also put its money where its mouth is and we should be holding the line on spending," Djou said.

The budget is also going up because the city Auditor's Office is asking for four more positions -- for a total of eight -- to help him get audits finished.

Some on the Council, however, want to wait to see what his first audit will look like before signing onto expanding the Auditor's Office.

Dela Cruz said that because voters approved the city auditor's position, it's up to the Council to make sure that it is properly funded.

"Our priority is to serving our constituents, and this budget allows us to do that," Dela Cruz said.

Anticipated salary increases of $331,000 for Council staff are also part of the budget.

Other new expenses include $50,000 to reconfigure Council offices to include space for the auditor at Honolulu Hale, fixing leaks and meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.


City Council budget increase

Here's the breakdown of the proposed $2.69 million increase in the City Council budget:

>> $1,176,317 for running elections
>> $242,148 to increase staffing for the city auditor
>> $815,233 to host the National Association of Counties 2005 convention
>> $331,225 for projected salary and step increases for Council staffers who are members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association
>> $50,000 reconfiguration of City Council offices
>> $22,000 National League of Cities membership
>> $20,000 Plan Long-term and Now survey, a Council planning project
>> $42,000 to hire someone to coordinate the NAOC convention


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