Kim budget expands to 93 new employees. Proposed $583.9M budget is 12.7% higher than this year

By Nancy Cook Lauer West Hawaii Today | Sunday, May 5, 2019, 12:05 a.m.

HILO — If Mayor Harry Kim has his way, more police will patrol the island, transfer stations won’t be closed on so many holidays, lines won’t be quite as long at vehicle registration and licensing offices, parks will be cleaner and oceans and swimming pools safer.

But it all comes at a price.

Mayor Harry Kim has added another 21 employees to his previous request of 72 in his final proposed budget sent Friday to the County Council.

The $583.9 million spending plan is 12.7% larger than last year’s budget and relies on fee increases and a general excise tax surcharge rather than an increase in property taxes. Some property owners, however, may pay more in taxes thanks to an average 3.2% increase in property values.

Kim has allocated money in the budget to remove seven holiday closures of transfer stations and landfill operations. And, $6.5 million in salaries and wages was added to reflect estimated increases coming from collective bargaining with the county’s public employee unions.

“The focus has been to improve customer service, including public safety,” Finance Director Deanna Sako said Friday. “We’re very aware the public has been waiting a long time for some of these, so the mayor put the focus there. He thought it was important.”

The newest proposed employees include three vehicle registration and licensing clerks, two new solid waste positions and two community resource police officers to help homeless individuals. In addition, there are four new lifeguards, paid with grant funds, as are eight fire and emergency response employees.

The previously requested new positions included 42 police officers. Twenty of the proposed police positions would be police field officers to be split between Puna and Ka‘u, and a police field officer for traffic enforcement in Kona, but there’s also nine sergeants, one lieutenant, five dispatchers, one supervising dispatcher, two evidence specialists, two information systems analysts and one records clerk.

A requested 10 wastewater employees would be paid with an increase in sewer fees. Seven new positions are in store for the Planning Department, to enforce the county’s new transient vacation rental ordinance.

The Department of Parks and Recreation would get six new positions, including one park caretaker each for Hamakua, North Kohala and Puna, as well as a recreation technician for Puna and a clerk and an account clerk in Hilo.

In addition, one pool lifeguard each in Kona and Puna will be converted from half-time to full time, a pool lifeguard in Hilo will be converted from three-fifths time to full time and a recreation technician in Kona will move from two-fifths time to full time.

The county as of June 30 had 2,457 full-time equivalent employees, down slightly from the 2,479 the year before, according to its comprehensive annual financial report.

The council, which has been grilling department heads over their requests, expenses and planned outcomes, will next tackle the revised budget, amending it or passing it outright in time for it to take effect July 1.

The council’s newest members have dived into the project with enthusiasm, perhaps forecasting major changes in the works.

“There’s a new and exciting vibe to this whole budget process,” said Council Chairman Aaron Chung.

Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

Hawaii Solar

Hawaii, A Leader in Renewable and Clean Energy, Enacts Law Aligned With Global Paris Climate Accord

Thursday, June 08, 2017

HONOLULU — Hawaii has passed a law to document sea level rise and set strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill signed by Gov. David Ige aligns the state’s goals with the Paris climate accord.

Ige said Hawaii is the first state to enact legislation implementing parts of the Paris climate agreement. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from that accord last week.

“Hawai‘i is committed to environmental stewardship, and we look forward to working with other states to fight global climate change,” Governor Ige said in a statement. “Together, we can directly contribute to the global agenda of achieving a more resilient and sustainable island Earth.”

Governor Ige said the islands are seeing the impacts of climate change first-hand. He says tides are getting higher, biodiversity is shrinking, coral is bleaching and coastlines are eroding.

“The measure adopted relevant sections of the Paris agreement as state law, which gives us legal basis to continue adaptation and mitigation strategies for Hawai‘i, despite the Federal government’s withdrawal from the treaty,” said Hawaii Sen. J. Kalani English.

Ige also signed a bill Tuesday to reduce carbon emissions in the agriculture sector.

At least a dozen states, including Hawaii, have signed pledges to continue reducing fossil-fuel emissions despite Trump’s decision.

Other members include New York, California, Washington state, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

“As the federal government turns its back on the environment, New York and states across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating good-paying careers,” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement earlier this week.

A new era of U.S. climate action has dawned. In less than a week since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement, more than 1,000 U.S. states, cities, businesses, and universities have organized themselves into an unprecedented coalition dedicated to continuing strong U.S. climate leadership. In their “We Are Still In” statement issued yesterday, American governors, mayors, investors, CEOs, and college and university leaders are sending a clear signal that they remain committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement and will press forward regardless. This action opens a new chapter in the history of international collaboration on climate change.

reference West Hawaii Forum, Nov. 2016: