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Kim’s budget for
The budget proposes hiring 38.5 new county employees, 13 of them to deal just with trash and sewage problems.
Despite those increases, homeowners living in their own homes will see their taxes decrease 14 percent on average because of property tax relief laws requested by Kim and passed by the County Council last year.
The county can increase its spending while lowering homeowners' taxes because taxes on almost all other kinds of property "will increase significantly," Kim's submittal to the County Council says.
In the broad perspective, all this is possible because of a return to prosperity which the county has not seen since the 1970s, Kim said.
"Hawaii County has finally emerged from the economic slump that began in the 1970s when the sugar plantations in East Hawaii began to close," Kim told the Council. Instead of struggling not to fall backwards, "the county can now finally look at improving services," he said.
In detailing proposed new hirings, Kim noted the county faces legal mandates, some of them from the federal government, such as closing the Hilo landfill within a year or two. The Department of Environmental Management would get 13 new employees to handle such mandates, he said.
Another major change would be in the Fire Department, where only two new battalion chiefs would be hired. But four existing assistant chief positions would be downgraded to battalion chief. With six in total, three would be stationed in East Hawaii and three in West Hawaii.
Police would receive only four new positions. "These are necessary to address the situation in dispatch, where burnout and worker's compensation are taking a heavy toll because of the workload and the stress level of the job," Kim said.
The building boom contributing to the island's prosperity would also be reflected in the Building Department. Five new jobs would be created to handle the increased volume of building permits being issued, he said.