Council seeks $600,000
in budget cuts

Issues including barking dogs and farmers' tax relief remain unresolved on the eve of a final City Council vote on a proposed $1.22 billion operating budget.

Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said this week she is looking for solutions that include $600,000 more in cuts in the budget.

The Budget Committee meets today to try to wrap up those issues in time for tomorrow's Council meeting.

Criticism is mounting against a proposal to give an $80,000 grant to an animal rights organization to respond to animal nuisance complaints, such as barking dogs and crowing roosters.

Members of the Council and the city administration say the money is going to the Animal Care Foundation without a contract or other oversight and without having to bid for the money.

"The way the current budget is written, in theory, they could take the $80,000 and spend it on a party and there's not much recourse we have," Councilman Charles Djou said.

Carol Costa, director of the Department of Customer Services, which oversees animal control activities, said the money to the group will be coming out of the budget for motor vehicle and licensing operations and she has asked city attorneys to research whether that's legal.

Kobayashi said she is working on a budget restriction that would prevent the administration from giving the money to the Humane Society, which doesn't want to handle such complaints.

Kobayashi's committee will also take up the latest draft of a bill to change the way relief from soaring taxes is given to owners of agricultural land.

The new version of Bill 35 would allow agricultural landowners to apply by Aug. 2 for what's called a tax "compromise" through the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services if the 2004-2005 tax bill is more than the 2003-2004 liability.

Then the department would pass those applications on to the Council for approval to keep taxes at the 2003-2004 level.

Budget Director Ivan Lui-Kwan said the problem with Bill 35 "is that they're giving this tax break to everybody and they do the same thing but in a different form (with the new version)."

Administration officials say that the measure could result in up to $12 million in lost revenue.

Also considered will be four resolutions with different recommendations on proposed raises for the City Council, the mayor, his top managers, the prosecutor, corporation counsel and their first deputies.


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