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Caldwell to let city budget take effect without his signature

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 10:54 a.m. HST, Jun 21, 2013

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has returned the 2014 operating and capitol improvements to the City Council without his signature, objecting to several changes made by Council members that he believes will make it more difficult for his administration to operate.

By neither signing nor vetoing Bill 11 (2013) or Bill 12 (2013), the $2.16 billion operating budget and $635 million capital improvements package become law and will take effect when the 2014 fiscal year begins on July 1.

Key among Caldwell’s concerns is a proviso restricting how the administration can use about $65 million in a so-called vacant and funded positions account. Caldwell said the administration needs to have the ability to maneuver money quickly in order to hire temporary workers through what are known as personal services contracts. 

Clauses in the budget bar the administration from using the vacant-funded position account for that purpose, administration officials noted.

“This restriction could seriously impact the hiring of temporary personnel who are needed to support the critical city operations while vacancies are being filled, such as for the hiring of part-time lifeguards, personnel to staff satellite city halls, and personnel to support our public safety agencies,” Caldwell said in his letter to the Council on Thursday.

But Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, who inserted the proviso, told the Star-Advertiser on Thursday that the administration can use money from that account to hire people on personal services contracts, so long as money is transferred from the vacant-funded positions account into a separate salary adjustment fund and the Council is notified every quarter of all such transfers.

Caldwell’s letter to the Council also raised objections to provisions in the two bills that appear to try to exert Council authority over the semi-autonomous Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit that oversees the city’s $5.26 billion rail project.

Separately, the mayor raised concerns about restrictions on the use of $7.1 million in the operating budget earmarked for the Department of Environmental Services refuse collection and disposal program, as well as a proviso in the Council’s version of the capital budget deleting $750,000 for construction of the long-stalled and long-debated replacement Hauula Fire Station.

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