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Honolulu City Council passes $4.2B budget with funding for police, housing, removing Haʻikū Stairs

Haiku Stairs.jpeg.jfif
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The Honolulu City Council passed a combined $4.2 billion budget Wednesday for both operations and capital improvement projects.

Hallmarks of the budgets include $1 million to increase Honolulu Police Department patrol staffing; over $50 million for affordable housing projects; and $1.3 million to remove Haʻikū Stairs.

The budget also funds $25 million for the Board of Water Supply to address water initiatives following the Red Hill crisis.

Federal American Rescue Plan Act money added a boost to funding in the next fiscal year. Budget Committee Chair Calvin Say said this money has been incorporated over the next two years.

“Why did we put the ARPA funds into the capital improvement budget? Simply put, it gave us a two-year window of opportunity to see that these funds are encumbered and expanded within that two-year period,” Say said.

Had it been in the operation budget, he explained, the city would have only had one year to expend the funding.

“It would have been very difficult for the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, along with the other departments that are making the requests, to have these funds be expended," Say said.

Say says the city needs to address sunsetting its general excise tax for the rail. He also raised concerns that unfunded mandates could stretch enforcement resources with the state in the future.

The operating budget accounts for $3.21 billion, which goes to services like HPD, emergency medical services, as well as funding county jobs.

Say said there are over 3,000 vacancies throughout the county system, accounting for about 27% of its workforce.

The balanced budgets feature no increased property taxes or layoffs.

“This budget reflects the needs of our community as so many struggle to live in our island home,” Chair Tommy Waters said in a news release. “From funding affordable housing to fighting for clean water, the Council stands strong in our commitment toward supporting an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am hopeful that this budget will help us to see greater City services to ensure the health and safety of our ‘āina and neighborhoods.”

Fiscal year 2023 starts on July 1.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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