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Kahoolawe commission trims spending 1.4 percent

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WAILUKU, Hawaii >> The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission approved a new budget for the next fiscal year that trims spending on the island by 1.4 percent, but the commission may have to shut down when its trust fund runs out in 2016.

The new budget for the year beginning July is $2.89 billion, down from $2.93 million this year, The Maui News reported.

Some commissioners suggested cutting back to stretch what’s left in the trust fund in hopes the state Legislature will find a way to fund the commission.

“I think it’s irresponsible to keep spending at the level that we’re spending, given the current state of the trust fund and what happened at the state Legislature this year,” Vice Chairwoman Namaka Whitehead said.

A bill before the state Legislature this year would have set aside 10 percent of the state conveyance-tax revenue for Kahoolawe restoration efforts, but the measure died in conference committee.

The trust fund currently has about $3.5 million remaining. By next June, It will have a little over a $1 million.

Executive Director Mike Nahoopii says the budget already is stretched thin.

“We really can’t stretch it any more. Critical systems right now are failing. I’m putting off major repairs next year that we need, but we can’t stretch two (more) years,” Nahoopii said.

The commission’s microwave relay communications system, which enables Internet and telephone services, is “on its last leg,” he said. There is only one remaining main generator to supply power with no backup, and planned repairs to the base camp at Honokanaia have been postponed.

Whitehead suggested that all base-camp operations be shut down in six months, which would save money and convey the urgency of the situation to the public.

A state audit last year revealed that the $44 million trust fund set up in 1993 would be depleted by 2016 without new funding.

The 45-square-mile island of Kahoolawe was used by the U.S. Navy as a target and training area from 1941 until 1990, when President George H.W. Bush ordered a halt to the exercises after years of protests and lawsuits by Hawaiians. It was formally returned to local control in 1993.

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