Editor’s note: At 9am today, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa gave his Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Address. Here’s the written text, as submitted to MauiTime:
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ALOHA and good morning to you all.
You might have noticed a lot of development in Central Maui recently.
There’s a new Foodland supermarket being built; the Marriot [sic] Courtyard Hotel coming up right across Costco; another Safeway breaking ground in Wailuku.
These projects are happening because private industry knows this is a good time to build.
Construction costs are down. Materials are cheaper and the labor force is definitely available.
It’s the same reason we chose to move forward with building the Kihei Police Station. Not only was it good for the community but the project bid came in 7 million dollars less than expected.
This is a good year for much needed projects in Maui County. If we build now we will
save the taxpayers a lot of money in the future.
Because once this economy bounces back – and there are indications this will happen relatively soon – these projects will cost more than what they cost right now.
We could have bought One Main Plaza – we didn’t. Now we’re paying more for rent than the mortgage would have been and we only control half the building.
We could have acquired 880 acres in Olowalu for $8 million – we didn’t. Now today two houselots there costs more than $8 million.
Acting quickly is the key. We need to take advantage of the situation before it is too late.
For that reason we believe that there is no time like the present to introduce our new, program based budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
We, here at the County, have been talking about such a budget for the last 20 years – since the time of the Lingle administration.
This type of budget, one that focuses on the mandate of each department, it’s [sic] function, it’s [sic] goals, how those goals are achieved and how performance is evaluated . . . this is what we need right now when we talk about making the County more efficient.
Our County Council members could have used this sort of budget a long time ago. We apologize that we were not able to get this to you sooner.
As a former Councilmember who has been in your shoes, I know that I could have used this back then as well.
We hope that this program-based budget is a useful tool for you and will help you to make good, sound decisions.
Decisions that will enable us to take advantage of the situation right now. Decisions that
have the future of Maui County in mind.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the idea that this is the “Mayor’s Budget” and that what passes afterwards is the “Council’s Budget.”
Let’s forget about all that. Let’s work together on the County’s Budget for once. It’s about time.
It won’t be easy, this is something new. This is something different. This is us trying to take the budget process to the next level.
But when you’re trying to improve things you have to start somewhere. So let’s start. Right here, right now.
Let’s go through the budget together, make decisions together. Let’s work together and take advantage of lower costs and more importantly, lower debt service.
Let’s get as many projects done now so that when the economy turns around we will be ready for it.
During the State of the County Address we said we wanted to make bold changes.
We weren’t kidding. This is where it starts.
So let’s get started.
For our capital improvement project budget for fiscal year 2013 we have budgeted for the following:
• Nearly 32 million dollars in Department of Water Supply projects. The DWS spent the first year planning and studying what kind of projects are needed and now they’re ready to put their plan into action.
• 31 million dollars in sewer rehabilitation and wastewater recycling projects for the Department of Environmental Management.
• Nearly 31 million dollars in much needed road improvement projects for the Public Works Department, up from 18.5 million last fiscal year. We can not afford to fall behind in this area any longer. Maui County has an estimated 900 miles of roads that we are responsible for and a backlog of projects to get done.
• 11 point 2 million dollars in drainage improvement projects. And if you remember the rain earlier this month you know these are important as well.
• And for the Department of Parks and Recreation, we have 8.8 million dollars in park facility improvements, of which we want to point out two important design projects that will benefit the entire community in the future.
The first is 1.5 million dollars to design a Central Maui Sports Arena/Convention Center. War Memorial Gymnasium was built in the 1950’s in honor of our Maui residents who gave their lives during military service.
The gymnasium has served this community well but we need a proper facility that will fit our growing needs. Also the cost to repair the gym continues to increase as the building gets older and things need to be replaced more often.
It is also timely to point out that all 2400 seats for tonight’s University of Hawaii Wahine Volleyball game is sold out and has been for weeks. More people want to come to these events and we need to have the facilities that can not only attract the crowds, but also handle the crowds.
The second parks project is for another million dollars to plan and design a Central Maui Aquatics Center.
Like the gymnasium the Coach Sakamoto pool has also served us well for decades. Currently the pool has been closed for more than a year and needs 3 million dollars in repairs.
In five years we will probably need to make another several million dollars in repairs and on, and on and on.
We can either keep paying for repairs or we can take the area where Kahului Pool and the Salvation Army is located and we can build a state of the art, Olympic sized swimming pool and water park which will serve this community for another 50 years.
I know that some of you hear the words “sports arena” and “convention center” and “aquatics center” and think that this isn’t the right time for those types of projects. You’re thinking the economy hasn’t recovered fully and that we’re being irresponsible and maybe even a little radical.
Sometimes that’s what being bold means. You can’t invest in your future if you hide your money under a rock.
So let’s be bold and invest in our community and forge our own destiny.
These are huge projects which will improve our infrastructure, enhance our quality of life and put many of our people back to work.
Now, we’ve talked about our larger CIP projects, so let’s move on to our operating budget.
Last year we initiated a plan to become more efficient and improve county services.
This plan included making internal changes to the County organization which will enable the County to run more smoothly and in the end will save taxpayer dollars.
Many of these changes involve consolidating departments and divisions with similar functions and operations. These changes include:
• moving Risk Management to Corporation Counsel
• moving the Grants Management Division from the Department of Housing and Human Concerns to the Department of Finance
• moving Real Property Tax collections to the Treasury Division
• increasing the project management capacity of the Department of Management by increasing its personnel
• consolidating the IT of the Maui Police Department with the rest of the County’sIT services under the Department of Management Information Systems preparing to move our Ocean Safety officers under the Department of Fire and Public Safety
These changes are just another step towards making the County more efficient.
Already we’ve already taken some little steps, like letting people pay their property tax bill with a credit card, or paying for their water bill at County service centers.
We’ve taken some medium steps too, like cutting County personnel by 36 positions through attrition, and working with a budget of 6 and a half million dollars less than what we had asked for during fiscal year 2012.
But now is the time for some larger steps, like cutting Maui County’s utility costs by 10 percent, or 3 million dollars.
We are doing this by taking a hard look at power purchase agreements and requests for qualifications for our waste conversion technology project, which will one day enable us to turn our landfill into a power plant.
This is the right time to take some bigger steps. Bold steps which will mean big rewards by investing in our future.
So please, join us as we continue to take these much needed steps toward shaping Maui County’s future for the better.
Thank you once again for letting me serve you and for helping us make Maui County one of the best communities in the world.
Aloha and God bless.
Photo: Tommy Russo