City aims to furlough workers 2 days a month


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

As many as 5,200 county workers face the likelihood of two furlough days a month starting in July, although Mayor Mufi Hannemann says he is asking agencies to come up with a schedule that prevents city offices from closing twice a month.

“;We're going to try to keep everything open and maintain some level of service,”; Hannemann said. “;It may not be what you normally see, but that's the first goal.”;

Furloughs are part of Hannemann's proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Hannemann unveiled his $1.82 billion operating budget, which increases spending over the current year by 1.2 percent but also calls for the furloughs and an increase in property taxes for property owners who do not live in their dwellings.

The increase is due largely to negotiated salary increases and fringe benefits for police and firefighters as well as $14 million needed upfront to prepare the city for next year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

Discounting those items, the city's budget actually decreased 1.8 percent, Hannemann said. He described his spending plan as “;lean and balanced.”;





        Mayor Mufi Hannemann has unveiled a separate $2.1 billion capital improvement project budget. A look at where some of that money is going:

        » $1.3 billion: Honolulu High Capacity Transit Project
        » $17.7 million: Bus and Handi-Van acquisition
        » $17.1 million: Alapai Transit Center and Alapai Transportation Management Center


        » $142.8 million: Solid Waste Facility expansion
        » $139.5 million: Ala Moana Wastewater Pump Station Force Mains No. 3 and 4
        » $90.7 million: Kaneohe/Kailua Force Main No. 2
        » $23.6 million: Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements


Highways and Streets
        » $77 million: Rehabilitation of streets
        » $185.5 million: West Oahu traffic improvements at various locations


Public Safety
        » $9.9 million: Police and fire equipment and acquisitions
        » $5 million: Replacement of the Waianae Police Station
        » $4.5 million: East Kapolei Fire Station


Source: Office of the Mayor


“;It's hard for me to believe that someone would take a whack at this budget,”; Hannemann said, “;because I think everyone was expecting us to raise real property taxes big time.”;

Hannemann's budget instead focused tax increases on a new property tax class established by the Council last year at the administration's request. The “;homeowner”; class allows the city to set separate rates for owner-occupants and those who do not live in their properties.

Nonoccupant homeowners would face a rate of $3.72 per $1,000 of property value, compared with the current $3.42 for owner occupants. Tax rates for all other classes of property — commercial, hotel/resort, industrial, agricultural — would remain unchanged.

Hannemann said the new tax rate targets speculators, investors and other higher-income property owners.

On average, nonoccupant homeowners with a single-family home or a condominium would face increases of 49 cents per month and 25 cents per month, respectively, according to estimates provided by the administration.

“;I find it very difficult for a person in that income bracket to say they can't afford another 25 cents or 49 cents a month to their tax bill,”; Hannemann said.

There also would be no increase in user fees, after the administration set higher rates last year for bus fares, zoo admission prices, public golf greens fees, public parking meters and other items.

The budget now goes to the City Council, which has until June 9 to make changes and pass the bill. The Council would have to approve the proposed nonoccupant homeowner tax rate.

Council Chairman Todd Apo called the mayor's proposal a good starting point.

“;I'm a little concerned about ... only changing the property tax for the nonhomeowner classification,”; he said. “;I think the upside that we saw is there's the opportunity for all taxpayers to see some relief.”;

Council Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia said he plans to work with the administration to get a clear understanding of how many property owners would be affected.

“;Until we get that explained to the satisfaction of the members, I'm not sure where we're going with the nonhomeowner classification,”; Garcia said.

The mayor also unveiled a $2.1 billion capital improvement projects budget that places an emphasis on the planned rail transit system and sanitation/waste-water treatment.

Of the CIP budget, $1.3 billion is planned for the $5.5 billion rail transit system.