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Council ready to fill empty slot and send budget to the mayor

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Although they are unsure of who will emerge as the newest Council member, City Council leaders say they do not expect the newcomer to affect the vote on the city’s $1.82 billion operating budget.

Today is the deadline for the Council to approve the budget and send it along to Mayor Mufi Hannemann for consideration.

Unlike past years, there have been no last-minute amendments proposed before today’s meeting, said Budget Chairman Nestor Garcia.

"I haven’t heard anybody express any dissatisfaction or make any changes to amend," Garcia said yesterday. "I think there’s a sense of acceptance."

The budget is balanced, in part, on a new real property tax rate for non-occupant homeowners. The rate of $3.58 per $1,000 of property value is a 16-cent increase over the rate paid by owner-occupants.

Rates for all other property tax classes remained unchanged, although Council members have proposed an increase in the minimum real property tax paid by nonprofit groups. The flat rate would go to $300, from $100.

"It’s not going to be perfect to everyone," Council Chairman Todd Apo said. "It’s something that the Council believes is a good budget and I think the support will be there to get it passed without a problem."

First, the Council must select a new member to fill the remaining seven months on the term vacated by Charles Djou, who was elected to Congress last month.

The Council last week narrowed the list of 27 candidates to six, with attorney Jonathan Lai at the top. The new member must receive five votes from the remaining eight Council members.

Other candidates nominated as potential successors include: Lee Donohue, Donna Ikeda, Carl Takamura, Lori Wingard and Brian Yamane. Djou has publicly supported Lai, but said he would defer to the Council to make the final decision.

"I don’t get a sense there’s five votes for anybody right now," Garcia said.

If the Council cannot decide on a replacement, the duty to appoint a successor would fall to the mayor.

"I’m going to remain—I don’t know whether the proper term is hopeful or confident—that the Council will come up with a selection," Apo said.


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