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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Kauai’s budget proposal:
More spending, no
tax-rate increase

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- A fiscal 2001 budget proposal calling for a 2 percent increase in spending and -- for the first time in three years -- no tax-rate increases was sent to the Kauai County Council late yesterday by Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

In response to shrinking revenues, Kauai County increased property taxes on homes 18 percent over the past two years, and boosted the county gas tax by 30 percent and the county vehicle weight tax on private autos 60 percent this year.

The mayor termed the county's financial outlook for the foreseeable future "relatively stable."

The budget request sets aside funds for pay increases for the mayor and her department heads, even though the county salary commission has made no recommendation on Kusaka's request last year for a 14 percent pay raise.

"We felt it prudent to include provisional funding," the mayor told the council.

The $71.8 million budget anticipates a $2 million increase in property tax collections. About half the new revenue is attributed to ending the tax exemption for "gentleman farms."

Even though the county is in the process of deciding on a new solid waste operation to replace the rapidly filling Kekaha Landfill, no money is earmarked for the new facility.

Kusaka's budget message notes the landfill continues to operate at a "monumental deficit" with $1.8 million in tipping fees providing less than a third of the $6 million operating costs.

The budget message does not discuss increases or decreases in the total number of county employees. It does seek money for two additional lifeguards in response to 13 drownings on Kauai last year.

The county's construction budget totals $27.8 million, of which $25 million will come from its bond sale in January. The lion's share will go to a new facility to house the police department, civil defense and county prosecutor.

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