Mayor Michael Victorino line-item vetoed the Maui County Council’s fiscal 2020 budget on Monday, providing a measured reduction of the council’s record-high $823.47 million spending proposal.
The Mayor expressed concerns over a lack of needed budget details for operational clarity and over property tax rate increases that would impact all residents, with the heaviest toll on hotels and resorts.
“While council members have made changes I support, I’m disappointed that more work wasn’t done to keep spending in check,” Mayor Victorino said. “While raising property tax revenue, we should not ignore visitor industry concerns that a 17 percent tax rate increase could affect employees, the industry itself or the economy. The visitor industry employs approximately 75 percent of our residents directly or indirectly. Meanwhile, the council also has cut funding by more than $1 million to the Maui Visitors Bureau.”
“The budget document lacks details that I have requested but not yet received. If the information is not received prior to the start of FY 2020, it will be difficult to implement the budget and financial transactions and may result in unintended consequences,” Mayor Victorino said.
Council members have 10 calendar days, or until June 20, to take action on the vetoed provisions.
On March 25, Mayor Victorino submitted a balanced, fiscally responsible budget with proposed expenditures of $780.76 million. The Council’s proposed budget of $823.47 million represents a 5.4 percent increase of $42.7 million.
Mayor Victorino expressed support for additional investment in Maui County’s critical need for affordable housing. The Victorino administration proposed increasing funding for the Affordable Housing Fund by adding an additional 1 percent, or $3.37 million, on top of the Charter-required 2 percent of real property tax revenues. The Council’s budget adds another 1 percent to the fund.
“Adding over $14 million to the Affordable Housing Fund in FY 2020 will allow the Administration to explore and plan for much-needed attainable housing for our working families,” Mayor Victorino said. “However, we need to be realistic. More housing won’t become a reality without the political will to make it happen and a commitment to well planned projects that address community needs while following environmental review processes.”
Mayor Victorino said he also supports the Council’s proposed increases to affordable rental housing programs, homeless programs and substance abuse programs. “These will further help our residents with getting the necessary assistance they need,” he said.
Mayor Victorino also applauded the Council’s support for economic development and environmental protection and its support for funding of much-needed infrastructure improvements for roads, bridges, parks facilities, landfills and wastewater systems.
Among his line-item vetoes, Mayor Victorino reduced an appropriation to the Department of Environmental Management for South Maui sewer system expansion from $7.5 million to $2.5 million. “The Council’s added appropriation does not identify specific projects or improvements for the funds,” Mayor Victorino said. “At this time, the department does not have the capacity to add an additional $7.5 million worth of projects. The reduced amount of $2.5 million would be sufficient to allow the Department of Environmental Management, Wastewater Program to explore options for future expansion projects for the Kihei-Makena Wastewater Facility.”
Mayor Victorino also eliminated the Council’s proposed $1 million for Upcountry sewer system upgrades. “Currently, there is no County-owned sewer system in the Upcountry area, so the description is unclear with regard to ‘upgrades,’ ” Mayor Victorino said. “Furthermore, it would be inappropriate to expend funds collected from rate payers for a project in a district that does not contribute to the revenues.”
Mayor Victorino listed various technical concerns about the Council’s budget. “Without the details and calculations used to revise the Mayor’s proposed budget, the Administration cannot make the necessary changes to the budget documents and accounting system,” he said. “Furthermore, we are unable to determine whether each fund (General, Highway, Sewer, Solid Waste Management, Liquor, Environmental and Sustainability, and Water Supply) is balanced and the supplemental transfers are sufficient.”
In addition, for estimated revenues, itemized details were not provided on the revisions made to each revenue category. For interfund transfers, it’s difficult to determine whether all of the transfers are accounted for.