City & County of Honolulu

Trash fee dumped
from city budget

The Council includes the
mayor's tax hikes and plans on
further trimming the budget

Mayor Jeremy Harris' proposal to raise property taxes by $23 million is in, the City Council's budget chairwoman said.

But charging households various fees, including $8 a month for city trash pickup, is out for next fiscal year's $1.2 billion operating budget, Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

"We're going to go with the property tax increase, but we're not going to raise it more than what the mayor already proposed. It's just too much for our residents," she said.

But Kobayashi also said an additional $13 million in proposed fee increases for the 2003-2004 budget will not be approved. The mayor proposed an estimated $24 million in fees.

The fees that are getting a thumbs down include:

>> An $8-a-month fee for trash pickup. The city administration estimated it would have generated $8 million in revenue.

>> A $12 increase in the $72.25-per-ton fee charged to commercial trash haulers. The so-called tip fee would have meant $3 million more in revenue.

>> Spay and neuter fee increases of up to $36 that would have meant $221,000 more cash.

>> About $1.3 million in fees associated with Hanauma Bay.

>> A satellite city hall per-transaction fee of $2 for a total of $685,000 in revenue. The Council killed that fee last week.

Kobayashi also said fee increases that are scrapped will not be offset with the tax increase, but will instead be balanced with cuts to the budget, on top of the $1.6 million in cuts the Council has already approved.

"Now we're going to have to make deeper cuts because we're not going with the $8 million (for trash pickup), the $3 million for tip fees, the $1.3 million for Hanauma," Kobayashi said.

She said she has been in discussion with Council members about what it will take to balance the budget.

"It's going to be very painful cuts," she said. "Last year, we cut $20 million out of the budget, and there were all these complaints. People came to see us and the members said, 'Oh, restore this,' and then we ended up with only $5 million in cuts. I'm telling the members that we have to be responsible and stand by our cuts."

Kobayashi's comments came a day after the mayor offered a compromise to the cuts by proposing to charge all residents for trash pickup. It would have generated $8 million more in revenue than he originally proposed for a total of $16 million to help balance the budget. The additional revenue would help pay for expenditures such as $2.1 million in arbitrated raises for firefighters.

Harris was trying to head off proposed Council cuts like closing Satellite City Halls and eliminating popular Office of Economic Development programs like Sunset on the Beach.

Not everyone is convinced that the $8 refuse collection fee should be trashed.

Council Chairman Gary Okino continued to argue that user fees are an equitable way for users to pay for services. "I strongly feel that user fees are very appropriate, and our debt and financial policies say that," he said.

The final version of the budget is scheduled for approval June 4.

City & County of Honolulu

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