$842.6M finances on verge of approval | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

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The Maui County Council gave the initial nod to its proposed $842.6 million budget on Friday, bringing it one step closer to approval after nearly two months of review.

The proposal would increase the current $822.6 million county budget by about $20 million and would tap into property tax hikes for hotels and visitor accommodations to raise more revenue for affordable housing.

The council voted 7-0 on Friday to pass the fiscal year 2022 budget on first reading, with Council Members Tasha Kama and Yuki Lei Sugimura excused.

“We had some long days, but I believe that we were ultimately able to work together and compromise on a budget that will address the needs of the people of our county,” said Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, chairwoman of the council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee.

At about $13 million more than Mayor Michael Victorino’s proposed $829 million budget, the council’s version includes an operational budget of $683.2 million and a capital improvements project budget of $159.4 million, compared to the mayor’s proposed $669.6 million for operations and $159.3 million in CIP funding.

A second and final reading for the budget is scheduled for June 4. By law, the council has until June 10 to adopt its own budget, otherwise the mayor’s budget becomes law. The new fiscal year begins on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2022.

Some highlights of the budget include a $651,000 increase to the county’s Emergency Fund, $500,0000 for Aloha House expansion and $700,000 for the expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program in Lahaina to assist homeless adults.

The council also kept in the budget Victorino’s proposal for $15 million for War Memorial Gym improvements, along with multiple projects to upgrade the West Maui wastewater system and $2 million for the acquisition of the Wailuku Water Co. System.

The council’s version also adds $8 million to the Affordable Housing Fund and $1 million to affordable rental housing programs using additional revenue generated by tax increases.

On May 14, the council set new property tax rates that would net $383.2 million, which would be $7.8 million more than the $375.4 million generated by the current fiscal year. The extra funds will come from an increase in property taxes for hotel and resort properties from the current $10.70 to $11.75 per 1,000 of net taxable assessed valuation.

Short-term rentals that have assessed value less than $800,000 will go from $11.08 to $11.11; short-term rentals from $800,001 to $1.5 million will go from $11.08 to $11.15; and short-term rentals worth $1.5 million and above will go from $11.08 to $11.20.

Timeshares will go from $14.40 to $14.60.

In other matters Friday, council members voted to waive council rules and take up a bill on first reading that would require the County Board of Water Supply to have at least one board member from Molokai and at least one board member from Hana. A second reading of the bill is needed.

Council members also decided to refer a bill from Victorino to acquire 545 acres in Waiale for preservation to the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee.

The bill would amend the authorization of $10 million from the bond fund for the acquisition of lands originally intended for attainable housing and affordable rental units, the administration said.

The funds will instead be used to preserve the lands after the discovery of na iwi kupuna, or ancestral remains, on the property, according to the county.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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