POSTED: 5:03 a.m. HST, Mar 1, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:05 a.m. HST, Mar 1, 2011
WAILUKU >> Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, who has made ending county furlough days a top priority of his administration, has asked the Maui County Council for $1 million to return employees to their regular work schedules beginning in April.
"The county is no longer in a situation where we need furlough days, and it has for too long limited the public's access to our services," Arakawa said in his State of the County address, The Maui News reported.
Former Mayor Charmaine Tavares put county workers on monthly furloughs starting last July, saying the program would save the cash-strapped county an estimated $3.5 million for the year.
But Arakawa said furloughs haven't saved the county as much money as previously thought.
The mayor said $1 million would put county employees back to work through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in June.
He said the money would come from the county's "carryover/savings" account, which holds money that has gone unspent by the county's various departments over the previous year.
The county currently had a balance of $52.1 million in its general fund carryover/savings, and around $35.7 million in savings across its various special funds, County Finance Director Danny Agsalog said Friday.
Council Budget Chairman Joe Pontanilla said he had not yet scheduled a hearing on Arakawa's furlough request, but said he expected his committee would review it next month.
He said he understood that ending furloughs had been a key campaign pledge for Arakawa, but said he was concerned about the county's ability to pay for the move.
"You always hear about the reduction in revenues for the next fiscal year by 15 to 20 percent," he said. "That should be considered going forward, in my opinion."
Pontanilla also said he was "kinda skeptical" of the administration's estimate of county savings. He questioned whether it took into account outstanding costs, and if all the money was actually available.
Council Chairman Danny Mateo said Friday that he was glad the county was looking at ending furloughs. But, he said, officials still needed to learn more about how much money the county actually had available, and whether the county could afford to end furloughs this year — and continue the plan in 2012.
He said he'd be more comfortable maintaining furloughs through June, and then seeing if the county could afford to end them in the next fiscal year.
"For myself, that's the more prudent thing," he said.