Mayor says $1.6 million
cut by Council will
hurt services

Harris says he has already
pared costs to the bone and it's
time for tax and fee hikes

Mayor Jeremy Harris went on the offensive yesterday against $1.6 million in budget cuts being proposed by the City Council.

City & County of Honolulu

"There's going to be a price to pay. Some service will diminish because I cut every penny I could find out ... I didn't want obviously to be the one to propose a fee increase or a tax increase. So I've cut it as far as I thought I could cut it," Harris told Star-Bulletin editors and reporters yesterday.

The mayor's comments comes as the Council prepares today to hold a 4 p.m. public hearing in the Council chambers at City Hall on bills related to the 2003-04 operating and capital improvement budget.

Harris is proposing a property tax rate increase of $23 million and another $23 million or so in fee increases.

Last week, the Council's Budget Committee passed out an amended budget that included about $1.6 million in cuts on top cuts the Harris administration had already made. The Council cuts were intended to offset the proposed tax and fee hikes, but fell short.

Some Council members have voiced concern over the tax rate increase especially since it would come at a time when property valuations in many Oahu areas have increased sharply.

Council Chairman Gary Okino said he has heard "surprisingly little" concern about the tax increase. "There's actually more on the fee increases."

Harris, who appeared before Star-Bulletin editors with six of his department heads, said he has not heard much public concern about the tax increase, but has heard lots of complaints about the Council proposal to eliminate Sunset on the Beach, the weekend event in Waikiki.

Okino said, however, that most of the opposition to eliminating Sunset on the Beach that he has heard has come from tourists. He said that "off the street, people are critical" about the city continuing to fund the event.

Harris said the Council's proposed cuts do not eliminate the need for a tax increase and the cuts go too far.

"The reality is without the political this and that, there isn't any place to cut in the budget. It's already cut way to the bone and beyond and I'm sure that's what they're discovering," Harris said.

Harris said it would have been better if the Council had given him a set amount to cut instead of cutting specific line items.

Okino said that he also believes that it will be difficult for the Council to find more cuts and they are looking into the concerns posed by the administration to the proposed cuts to see if they have merit. "That's the process. We're not through making revisions."

City & County of Honolulu

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