In State of the County, Kauaʻi Mayor Derek Kawakami refocuses priorities away from pandemic
Kauaʻi Mayor Derek Kawakami is refocusing the county’s priorities away from COVID-19 and returning to commitments he made when he first entered office.
He gave his fourth State of the County address Monday, capping off his first term as county mayor.
Kawakami, who is up for re-election this year, said the county was able to combat the coronavirus pandemic the last two years while deferring fee increases, refinancing county debts, and avoiding furloughs and layoffs by drawing on the county’s reserves.
He says the actions taken during the pandemic will allow the county to move ahead with important actions that have been delayed.
"This upcoming year, we have proposed an operating budget of roughly $260.2 million, and a capital improvement budget of nearly $49 million. Our proposed budget is structurally balanced, and aims to make headway in decades old deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs. All while avoiding additional general obligation debt or raising tax rates," he said.
Kawakami’s budget highlights several changes in the county’s revenue stream — such as the recently enacted 3% transient accommodations tax county surcharge.
The county is also seeing pre-pandemic levels of general excise tax revenues, now at $26 million.
And despite not raising the real property tax rate, his administration expects that by the end of June, Kauaʻi will see an increase of $30 million in revenue over 2021.
Kawakami says about two-thirds of the county’s expenses are fixed, leaving the remainder for community efforts, county service and infrastructure improvements.
"This year, we’ll invest roughly $5.3 million in CIP funds to upgrade our treatment plants and distribution systems. Road and bridgework is another area of critical need. Our island-wide resurfacing project will invest over $15 million into road resurfacing. We’re also focused on island-wide bridge repairs, and the long-awaited reconstruction of Olohena Road in Wailua, and Moi Road in Hanapepe," Kawakami said.
Kawakami says other investments include affordable housing projects, finding a new landfill, expanding services for kūpuna and keiki, and making the county more resilient to natural disasters and cyberattacks.