KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County's mayor has made public a $625.9 million budget proposal for the next fiscal year that includes a $7.8 million increase in retirement benefits for county employees.
Mayor Harry Kim's budget request for fiscal year 2020-2021 is a 6.9% increase over the current fiscal year ending June 30, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.
The budget does not add employees, but factors increases in negotiated salaries and benefits. The increase in retirement benefits is mandated by the state.
The mayor’s budget message said retirement contributions have increased 64% for police and fire departments and 41% for general employees over the past four years.
“This is a no-frills budget this year,” Finance Director Deanna Sako said.
The budget relies on an average 3.9% increase in property values, or $12.8 million. The increase means property owners are likely to see a bigger tax bill, although there are no hikes in taxes or fees currently being considered by the county.
The general excise tax is expected to increase by $18 million, or 56%, during the first full year of a 0.5% county surcharge.
Another $2.5 million is expected from previously approved increases in sewer rates and landfill tipping fees.
“The budget should be based on our objectives to provide quality service to the public, while maintaining prudent and conservative spending,” Kim said in his budget message, noting that transportation will be a priority in the coming year.
KIm added: “This budget still does not include everything needed, but it goes a long way toward providing services required by our community."
The Hawaii County Council will take up the preliminary proposed budget and hold departmental reviews in April. The mayor’s final proposed budget is expected to be released by May 5. Once amended and passed by the council, it will go into effect July 1.