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Preservation fund faces budget threat

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:12 a.m. HST, May 09, 2014

LIHUE » Kauai County Council members, facing a budget crunch, have advanced a bill that would cut funds for preserving natural spaces.

The Garden Island newspaper reports that the measure would cut the property tax set aside for the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund.

That share of property taxes would fall to at least 0.5 percent from at least 1.5 percent. According to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s budget proposal, that would work out to a drop of about $850,000 in the next fiscal year.

The County Council could adopt the measure next week after the Planning Committee passed it by a 4-1 vote.

Committee members said they were torn between the need to balance the budget and their desire to protect a vital, voter-approved fund.

"This is a sacred cow," Councilman Tim Bynum said of the Open Space Fund, "but I'm actually considering letting some of it go because we need to behave fiscally responsibly."

The lone opposition vote in the committee was cast by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who said cutting from the fund could lead to complacency in preserving the island's natural spaces.

"This is a fund that, if you start taking from it, you're going to get used to taking from it," Yukimura said. "I think we need to learn how to live with us putting aside -- like putting aside for a college fund or a financial reserve. It's a discipline that we need to get used to, and we need to figure out how to do it every year."

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