Mayor Kenoi Eyes ‘Deep and Painful’ Budget Cuts

kenoi
From the Mayor’s Office:

Deep and painful budget cuts will be necessary to carry the county through the next fiscal year, Mayor Billy Kenoi told his county staff today at a meeting to kick off budget preparations for fiscal year 2010-2011.

The county’s projected budget shortfall is more severe than ever, the mayor said. The county already faces a $44.8 million hole in next fiscal year’s budget, which combines $33.8 million less in projected revenues and $11 million more in projected expenses.

“We’ve never faced what we face today,” said Mayor Kenoi. “Which means we’ve got to take steps that we never took before,” to make government more efficient and reduce county spending.

Projected revenue losses include 10 percent of real property taxes, the county’s largest source of revenue, amounting to about $17.9 million. The county also expects to see a loss of interest on investments amounting to about $1.6 million.

“Next year’s budget situation would be a lot worse if we hadn’t already asked our department heads to implement five percent cuts during their first six months on the job. Then we asked them to cut another 10 percent in the current fiscal budget that began July 1,” Kenoi said.

“My staff and I also took 5 percent salary cuts, and we eliminated 55 vacant county positions to help balance the existing budget.”

If the state were to take the county’s $17.9 million share of the Transient Accommodations Tax on hotel rooms, the situation gets much worse, Mayor Kenoi said. Next fiscal year’s budget shortfall would be closer to $64 million without the county’s share of the TAT.

“That’s $100 million taken out of our budget over two years — gone,” Mayor Kenoi said. “That is a real possibility.”

Finance Deputy Director Deanna Sako also warned that the Employer Union Trust Fund may add to the budget difficulties by increasing health insurance premiums for employees after Jan. 1.

The worsening overall financial situation will require “deep and painful” cuts in next year’s budget, Mayor Kenoi warned.

“There will be a major shift in how the county is going to look,” the mayor said, as departments are asked to consolidate programs and services where significant savings can be achieved.

The budget projections for next fiscal year were anticipated when the administration took a two-year look at the county’s finances during budget preparations earlier this year. That was the first time the county looked at its financial picture beyond the current fiscal year. “We saw it coming,” Mayor Kenoi said. “I’m glad my finance team has been working so hard on this.”

Mayor Kenoi remained optimistic, stressing that while the county’s economic difficulties are serious, they are not permanent. “We will once again have a growing, vibrant economy,” he said.

Mayor Kenoi expressed confidence that his department heads and financial staff would lead the county through the economic downturn. He expects the recession to hit bottom soon but remain there before starting to climb again in 18 to 24 months. “There won’t be a sharp rebound,” he said. “It will look more like a bath tub – down and flat for a while before it comes up again.”

County Finance Director Nancy Crawford asked county officials to examine every aspect of their operations and identify non-essential programs that have the least impact on the public, including travel and conference costs, vacant positions, supplies and contracts.

“This will be a time of working together,” Crawford told the department heads.

Mayor Kenoi encouraged departments to start cutting as soon possible rather than wait for the start of the new fiscal year. The earlier the cuts are made, the greater the impact because the cuts will have been in place for a longer period of time. Other areas of expected savings this coming fiscal year include:

  • A wide-ranging review of county fees for services with expected increases in costs for users.
  • A ban on replacing county vehicles except under special circumstances with direct authorization of the Finance Department.
  • Elimination of overtime unless pre-approved and absolutely necessary for the department’s operations.

“Going forward, there will be unprecedented cuts in every department,” said Mayor Kenoi. “We need to transform government, become more efficient and provide a higher level of quality service with fewer resources.”

Analyzing anticipated and projected revenues and expenses over the past two years and a careful analysis of last year’s and the current budget were instrumental in forming the current projections.

“Thankfully last year we made the cuts that had to be made or we would now have an even greater problem,” Mayor Kenoi said.

“We are also working with our largest private employers – the hospitality and construction industries — to put our Hawai‘i Island workers back on the job so they can support their families, keep their homes, minimize the impact of the downturn, contribute to the health of our economy and to a promising future for our island,” said Mayor Kenoi.

“We will be looking for help and cooperation from throughout the community and we greatly appreciate everyone’s patience, understanding and cooperation as we work through these difficult times.”

“We can do this because of the aloha and respect we all share for one another, and because we will work hard and work together, helping one another to get through this economic recession with a minimum of impact on the quality of life we enjoy so much in our county,” Mayor Kenoi said.

“At the end of the day, the better the job we do together, the better we work together, the better we serve the public.”

Downtown Hilo Sustainable Design Final Report Now Available

envision

From the Mayor’s Office:

The final report by the American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team Program for Downtown Hilo is now available online.

It can be accessed on the American Institute of Architects website at: http://www.aia.org/about/initiatives/AIAS075426 (Click on Hilo Report), or on the EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025 SildeShare website at: http://www.slideshare.net/edh2025/downtown-hilo-sdat-final-report.

In May 2009, a team of multi-disciplinary experts from around the country visited Hilo and met with stakeholders and the community to discuss ideas for the sustainable development of Downtown Hilo.  Their recommendations are now contained in a 54-page report and include several suggestions including, Relocating Bayfront Highway, Designating Downtown Hilo as a Historic District, Developing a Form-Based Code, and Forming a Business Improvement District.

The SDAT program is an interdisciplinary community assistance program that focuses on principles of sustainability. Downtown Hilo was selected as a host community by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The SDAT report is a valuable resource for implementation of the EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025 Plan, and some of its recommendations may be used to update the Plan.

Building upon the SDAT Program, the Hawai‘i County Planning Department and the VisionKeepers were awarded $3,000 from the Group 70 Foundation Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.  The monies will be used toward updating the Action Plan and creating a Vision Map for EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025.

An EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025 Survey is now available online!  Please visit the EDH 2025 homepage to participate in the new survey at http://co.hawaii.hi.us/edh2025. Your input is vital for beginning the Action Plan Update!

EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025 is a grassroots community planning and implementation process in collaboration with the County of Hawai‘i Planning Department.

For more information about the SDAT report, or if you are interested in helping to implement the Plan, visit the EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025 Website at www.co.hawaii.hi.us/edh2025 or contact Kylie Alexandra via email: edh2025@gmail.com.

NY Times Features Hawaii Renewable Energy Plans

From Edison's Desk Blog: http://www.grcblog.com/?p=434

From Edison's Desk Blog: http://www.grcblog.com/?p=434

From the New York Times:

“Two miles or so from this tiny town in the southernmost corner of the United States, across ranches where cattle herds graze beneath the distant Mauna Loa volcano, the giant turbines of a new wind farm cut through the air…

Sixty miles to the northeast, near a spot where golden-red lava streams meet the sea in clouds of steam, a small power plant extracts heat from the volcanic rock beneath it to generate electricity.

These projects are just a slice of the energy experiment unfolding across Hawaii’s six main islands. With the most diverse array of alternative energy potential of any state in the nation, Hawaii has set out to become a living laboratory for the rest of the country, hoping it can slash its dependence on fossil fuels while keeping the lights on.

Every island has at least one energy accent: waves in Maui, wind in Lanai and Molokai, solar panels in Oahu and eventually, if all goes well, biomass energy from crops grown on Kauai. Here on the Big Island of Hawaii, seawater is also being converted to electricity…

…Each of the state’s six electric grids belongs to its own island and is unconnected to the others. And according to state figures, Hawaii still relies on imported oil to generate 77 percent of its electricity, a level of dependency unique in the United States. Coal-fired power provides 14 percent, and 9 percent comes from renewable sources like the wind or the sun…

…“The goals are very, very aggressive,” said Debra Lew, a senior project leader for the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Three decades ago, Hawaii mapped out a similar vision, if in less detail, that came to nothing. But this time, planners say, failure is not an option. “We don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Ted Peck, the point man for the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, overseen by the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

…For all the optimism, planners studiously remind themselves of the detritus of past failures, like the dismembered and rusting wind turbines of a defunct wind farm near the southern end of the Big Island.

“This transformation is going to take a generation,” said Ted Liu, director of the state economic development department. “There are no short-term easy solutions.”

Full Article:  Hawaii Eyes Green Tools in Remaking Power Grids

Disney Resort Oahu as Seen at the D23 Expo

Disney Oahu

Here is a better look at the new Disney Vacations Resort being built out Ko Olina side, the one I posted the other day was junk:

Currently under construction in Ko Olina, Oahu — as seen at the D23 Expo — Displayed at a very detailed 1/240th of it’s actual size.

Hawaii County Fair Begins Thursday… So You Think You Can Sing?

So You Think You Can Sing

Hilo Jaycees 59th Annual Hawaii County Fair
Pupukahi i holomua “Unite to move forward”
September 17-20, 2009
Hilo Civic Fair Grounds

Commercial Booths – 987-1297
Community/Non-profit Booths – 935-1970
Food Booths – 895-4628

County Fair