For immediate release: June 8, 2022
Press Release by:
Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Vice-Chair
Maui County Council
Council approves budget that manages over-tourism and boosts affordable housing, social services, recreation and open space
WAILUKU, Hawai‘i—The council today approved Maui County’s fiscal year 2023 budget to manage over-tourism and boost affordable housing, social services, recreation and open space, Council Vice-Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez announced.
Rawlins-Fernandez chairs the Maui County Council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee, which conducted weeks of deliberations this spring after receiving Mayor Michael P. Victorino’s budget proposal in March. While prioritizing social distancing and public safety, committee remained dedicated to open government and transparency by offering both interactive-conferencing technology and in-person sites to hear testimony from residents, who provided thoughtful and passionate suggestions on priorities for the expenditure of county resources, Rawlins-Fernandez said.
“It’s important for residents to understand where the money is coming from to fund this budget, so they don’t think it’s coming from them only,” said Rawlins-Fernandez, who holds the council seat for the Molokai residency area. “We were able to provide tax relief to our residents, especially those who really need it, by leveraging federal funds, making good use of the county’s new authority on transient accommodations tax and ensuring the visitor industry helps make residents’ lives better, not worse.
“It’s time we make good on the intention to ensure the tourism industry contributes to making our lives better.”
In accordance with public testimony, the County Charter and the Countywide Policy Plan, the council also prioritized appropriations for the preservation of Hawaiian culture, environmental protection, climate-change mitigation, economic diversification and self-sufficiency, including agriculture and food security, and small-business support, Rawlins-Fernandez said. In light of the ongoing recovery from the pandemic, councilmembers minimized discretionary program expenditures, deferred nonessential equipment purchases and reduced positions.
The council voted to increase the mayor’s proposed budget by $24,782,497, or approximately 2.4 percent, to $1,069,838,795. The council-approved budget includes a nearly $806 million operating budget and a capital improvement budget of almost $264 million.
“The council’s budget is slightly more than the mayor’s overall budget proposal due to increased allocations to the Affordable Housing Fund, housing and homeless related programs, agriculture programs and countywide road resurfacing projects, and a new allocation relating to the Ma‘alaea Regional Wastewater System,” Rawlins-Fernandez said.
Highlights from the council’s work on the budget include:
- Decreasing real property tax rates from the mayor’s proposal by recognizing that county residents continue to face challenges with the post-pandemic recovery combined with market speculation driving up residential property values.
- Adding two positions, one to the Office of Council Services and the other to the Department of Management, to support Hawaiian translation of county documents.
- Creating a housing and community development division to support an increase in affordable housing.
- Conditioning up to $250,000 in the Affordable Housing Fund for the development of a comprehensive plan to end houselessness in Maui County.
- Providing a $2.5 million grant to the Hawai‘i Community Foundation for initiatives recommended by the County’s Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan to support homebuyers and renters.
- Adding a new liaison to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
- Adding a $340,000 grant to Sust ‘āina ble Molokai for food security.
- Supporting the creation of an implementation plan for economic diversification under the Office of Economic Development.
- Adding funding for micro grants to local farmers.
Rawlins-Fernandez applauded the hard work, dedication and collaborative support throughout budget session from Budget Director Michele Yoshimura and Mayor Michael Victorino.
Once the mayor receives the budget from the County Clerk’s office, he has 10 days to approve or veto the budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.
For more information, please contact council staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 270-7664.