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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           February 27, 2006

Release No. M-18-06

 

 

MAYOR PROPOSES NO-FRILLS, CORE SERVICES BUDGET

 

            Mayor Mufi Hannemann today sent to the City Council his proposed City budget for Fiscal Year 2007, which runs from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007.

            “This is a no-frills, need-to-have, core services budget,” Hannemann said. “As I said in my State of the City speech, we are continuing to focus on the nuts and bolts of City government, basic services that place a premium on public safety; maintenance of our roads, parks and public facilities;  transportation and traffic; the sewage system; and solid waste management.”

            The budget provides $1 million in operating funds and another $1 million in capital improvement funds specifically for a community benefits program for the Waianae Coast, to begin to offset the presence of a landfill there. That’s in addition to funding proposed improvements to the Waianae Police Station and completing the Waianae emergency access road.

            The proposed budget is based on maintaining current property tax rates. However, it also provides for property tax relief in the form of three bills recently passed by the Council that Hannemann will sign into law.

            The City Charter gives the City Council until June 15 to enact the budget. Here are some highlights:

 

OPERATING BUDGET

            The administration is proposing a $1.493 billion operating budget, an increase of $131 million, less than 10 percent, over the operating budget for the current fiscal year, $1.362 billion. More than half of the increase is needed to cover increases in debt service and increases in salaries and retirement benefits for City workers. Almost another one-fourth would be for additional fuel and electricity costs over this year. The increases include:

  • $40 million for salary increases, which are negotiated and arbitrated on behalf of all public employees statewide;
  • $23 million for increases in debt service payments for money the City previously borrowed.
  • $32 million for increased energy costs, primarily fuel and electricity.
  • $10 million for environmental programs, primarily to meet new federal mandates  regarding storm water pollution control and to expand the greencycling automated curbside green waste recycling program islandwide. Greencycling is the best way to use the 50,000 blue bins that the previous administration spent $2.5 million on, without a feasible plan. In addition, the $50,000 Beck report on the 2003 Mililani recycling pilot project recommended the City focus on green waste as the most cost-effective recycling program to divert waste from landfills.
  • $10 million for the West Oahu-downtown commuter ferry and the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project.

 

CAPITAL BUDGET

 

            The mayor is proposing a $629 million capital improvements budget for the next fiscal year, a 32 percent increase over the current year’s $477.7 million.  More than half of the proposed capital budget – 55 percent – is needed for sewer work.  

            “We’re paying the price for years of deferred maintenance of our sewer system,” said Hannemann. “The dozens of sewage spills we’ve had over the past year – there were two just last Friday, in Kailua and Kaneohe are symptoms of that problem as we set about bringing the City’s sewer system up to standards.”

            The proposed capital improvements budget provides $36 million for public safety, including $10 million for police crime lab expansion; $77 million for streets, including $33.1 million for the North-South Road in Kapolei;   $50.2 million for the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project; $7.3 million for the implementation of the second phase of the integrated financial and human resources software system; $5.1 million to install fire sprinklers in the Honolulu Municipal Building; almost $4 million for Blaisdell Center improvements, and $2 million for new comfort stations at the Waipio Soccer Complex.

 

PROPERTY TAXES

            The administration’s budget is based on current tax rates and can take into account tax relief bills passed by the City Council earlier this month.

            “We recognized all along that the City needs to relieve the burden being placed on property tax payers by higher real property assessments. We were willing to work with the Council on how to provide that relief, and I think they have come up with some workable measures to ease the burden of higher assessments for many property taxpayers. I will be signing those bills into law.”

            The bills are:

·       Bill 1 (2005), CD1, FD1, doubles the basic homeowner’s exemption from the current $40,000 to $80,000 for owner-occupants up to 64 years old. Owner-occupants 65 and older would be eligible for a homeowner’s exemption of $120,000. This bill would replace the current system, where the standard $40,000 exemption increases in five-year steps beginning at $60,000 for property owners age 55 and older, up to $120,000 for those 70 and older.

·       Bill 66 (2005), CD1, FD1, adjusting the filing requirement for persons 75 and older with low-income super-exemptions. Rather than reapply annually, the bill would require them to reapply every five years up to the age of 90. After age 90, they would not have to reapply.

·       Bill 80 (2005), CD1, FD1, provides a tax credit for owners granted a home exemption where titleholders have an aggregate income of no more than $50,000. Eligible owners would receive a tax credit for any amount that exceeds 4 percent of their income.

            I initially proposed $40 million in tax relief, which amounts to $300 for every homeowner,” Hannemann said. “The Council said they want to focus on the low-income folks. In the spirit of cooperation, I’m willing to support these measures, although it’s not clear just how much relief these bills will provide.

             “As a long-term solution,” he added, “I will continue to press for creation of a homeowner classification for real property, as the three Neighbor Island counties have already done, to distinguish owner-occupants from speculators and other property owners. That would enable us to provide same-year tax relief to homeowners.”

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Contact:

           

            Mary Pat Waterhouse, Budget and Fiscal Services Director, 523-4617

            Bill Brennan, 527-6928

            Mark Matsunaga, 527-5767   

Monday, February 27, 2006

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