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Thursday, March 2, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

Harris budget
seeks no hike in
property tax rate, fees

The mayor also leaves bus fares
alone but raises funding for the police

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A $1.02 billion executive operating budget with no increases in fees or real property tax rates will be delivered to the City Council today by Mayor Jeremy Harris.

The 2001 budget represents an increase of less than 1 percent from the current year's.

Property tax collections, which make up the bulk of the city's revenues, are forecast to be down $19 million from this year because of the continuing fall in property valuations.

While property owners' taxes next year may be up, down or the same depending on the property values of their individual neighborhoods, the owner of an average single-family home would see a property tax bill of $920, down 3.8 percent from the current year.

That's assuming the Council accepts the mayor's plan not to increase rates.

The average apartment owner's tax bill would be about $668, a decrease of 5.5 percent.

Harris, seeking re-election this fall, is to explain today how he intends to make up the $19 million shortfall. Several sources said layoffs are not expected.

The $19 million figure came as a surprise, since the administration earlier had forecast a drop of $16 million.

Expenditure highlights include an $11.3 million increase to the Police Department budget. That would include $2.3 million for overtime pay.

The administration is expected to have a relatively easy time with the Council majority headed by Chairman Jon Yoshimura this budget season.

Yoshimura and Budget Chairwoman Rene Mansho came into power during budget time last spring after promising to work more cooperatively with the administration than had dethroned Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann and then-Budget Chairman John Henry Felix.

This year, one key area where the Council majority and Harris likely will differ is on the issue of bus fares.

The mayor has proposed that fares for TheBus stay the same, and in the past, Harris has spoken out philosophically against fare increases.

A resolution introduced last month by Council Transportation Chairman Duke Bainum, however, calls for requiring that fare revenues fund at least 30 percent, but no more than 35 percent, of the operating cost for the bus service.

Approval of the resolution would clear the way for an increase in bus fares, since farebox revenues in recent years have ranged between 20 percent and 30 percent, with the rest funded through a city subsidy.

Last year, the Council toyed briefly with increasing bus fares, a plan that had the backing of the Transportation Commission and TheBus officials, but the plan was nixed after the Yoshimura-Mansho faction took control.

Also scrapped last year was a plan by Harris to institute garbage pickup fees.

Next year's budget will also benefit from Council action done in the off-budget season. Golfers began paying $3 more for playing time and other services at municipal courses, netting the city about $1.5 million more annually.

Harris today also is to submit a $267 million capital improvements budget, up from last year's $252.2 million submittal.

More than a quarter of the construction budget, $75 million, is committed to projects designed to enhance the city's aging sewer system.

Transit is also a high priority on the construction list, with $8.5 million going to purchase new vehicles and parts and $4 million for the continuing primary corridor transit system study.

Some $3.8 million is targeted for the development of transit centers around the island, including Kapolei, Alapai and Aloha Stadium.

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