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Hawaii News

Council panel restores $32M to roads budget

Looking to make a high priority of fixing Oahu’s crumbling roads, the City Council Budget Committee restored $32 million to the mayor’s construction project budget for roads yesterday.

"The capital improvement projects budget was among the fiscal measures taken up yesterday by the committee as the Council prepares its final budget drafts for its meeting June 3, when all budget bills for the fiscal year beginning July 1 go before the full Council for final votes.

Adding $32 million to the CIP budget for roads restores it to about $77 million, roughly the equivalent of previous years, Budget Chairman Ernie Martin said.

Martin said he restored the funding in part because of testimony by city administration officials, who previously testified in favor of a $77 million roadway budget before Mayor Peter Carlisle requested it be pared as part of his overall plan to eliminate debt service. Carlisle has said his administration would try to limit total debt service to about $125 million a year.

Meanwhile, the committee advanced the mayor’s operating budget with an overall reduction but restored funding to some departments after reconsideration by the committee.

Two departments that had faced severe cuts were spared. The committee restored 80 percent of a proposed $303,000 cut to the Mayor’s Office on Culture and the Arts budget (bringing it to $284,500) and restored all of the $338,000 proposed to be cut from the $476,000 budget for the Office of Economic Development.

Martin said both agencies received a wealth of public support at a committee hearing last month, adding that he expects the economic development office to take advantage of potential opportunities arising from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Honolulu this fall.

The committee also advanced a single real property tax rate of $3.50 per $1,000 of property value.

The rate amounts to an 8-cent rate decrease for property owners who do not live on their property but an 8-cent rate increase for residential owner-occupants. The single rate was needed after the Council eliminated a separate "non-homeowner" class last year.

Although the administration touted the rate as "revenue neutral," Council members decried the increase for owner-occupants.

"I want them to know that we can see that it is a tax increase, even if they don’t want to say it," Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said.

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