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Saturday, May 8, 2004



Kauai mayor wants to
scrap ‘rainy day fund’

Bryan Baptiste says balancing
the budget requires slashing the
$2 million program


LIHUE » Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste revised his fiscal year 2005 budget request to the County Council yesterday, cutting a proposed $2 million "rainy day fund."

Baptiste said he was forced to scrap the contingency fund to balance the budget.

The mayor's revised budget proposal remains at $103.4 million, up 5.8 percent from this year's $97.7 million budget.

The mayor discovered $2.5 million in lower revenue forecasts and that the county would need an extra $1.46 million, instead of $1 million, to cover public workers' pay increases.

In the revised budget, Baptiste added a request for five new undercover narcotics officers for the Kauai Police Department and two lifeguards.

The mayor submits his budget to the Council in March and presents what is called a "supplemental" request in May, as soon as the Legislature adjourns. The "supplemental" budget actually is the mayor's final request.

The Council has a series of "decision-making" meetings on the budget scheduled for next week. The operating budget for Kauai in fiscal 2005 begins July 1.

The budget revision was prompted, in part, by an increase in the projected revenue losses of two temporary property tax cut provisions and a decrease in the estimated total value of all property on the island.

The so-called "circuit breaker" tax cut, which is given to homeowners whose annual tax increase is greater than 3 percent of their total household gross income, resulted in only 47 refunds last year. This year, 423 households qualified.

The second tax relief measure, providing a 6 percent tax cut to owner-occupied homes that are classified as homesteads, originally was forecast to apply to 10,000 homes. New estimates show the actual number is closer to 12,000 homes. That puts a deeper dent in county revenues than originally forecast.

And in March, county officials estimated the total value of all taxable property in Kauai County would be up 29 percent next year. The latest forecast calls for total valuation growth of 26 percent instead.

The County Council has already decided for an across-the board cut in property tax rates of property. But that still means the average taxpayer would see their property tax bill go up by more than 20 percent in the coming year.

Baptiste said yesterday the county would need $900,000 to pay the 8 percent raises for white-collar workers represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and $400,000 to $500,000 to cover increases for blue-collar workers covered by the United Public Workers union.

The mayor unveiled the changes yesterday at the first of what he promised will be weekly press briefings.

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