Upon receiving Mayor Alan Arakawa's budget proposal on March 25, the Maui County Council officially entered into its deliberations on the fiscal year 2015 budget. The proposed budget totals $622.6 million, an increase of county spending by $63.3 million.
The challenge before the council is to determine whether the proposed spending increase is warranted and justifies an increase to property tax collections. The mayor's budget proposes real property tax increases of approximately 6.5 percent to the rates for all tax classifications. This is in addition to an estimated 9 percent increase in taxes from rising property values.
Public input is critical to the council's efforts to adopt a fiscally prudent and balanced budget. Throughout the rest of April, the council will hold public hearings in each of the county's nine districts. The committee has already held two successful hearings in Pukalani and on Lanai.
These public hearings traditionally have generated strong turnout from the nonprofit sector. This year, I am strongly encouraging the general public and businesses to participate in the budget process by coming out to testify at their district's public hearing.
The committee will also conduct budget meetings at the Council Chambers in Wailuku on most days, beginning March 31 and continuing through May 2.
In addition to testifying at the public hearing or at the budget meetings, members of the public can participate in the budget process by sending written testimony to the Budget and Finance Committee. Letters can be mailed to the Budget and Finance Committee (BF-1), 200 S. High St., Wailuku 96793. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A short survey is available online at www.mauicounty.gov/2015budget.
These are a few tips you should consider to make your testimony effective: address your testimony to the committee chair, identify yourself and the organization you represent, state the program you wish to support and why, back up your claim with facts and, finally, conclude your testimony by summarizing your position.
Upcoming district meetings include:
* Monday, Lahaina Civic Center, 6 p.m.
* Wednesday, Paia Community Center, 6 p.m.
* Friday, Kalanianaole Hall, Kaunakakai, 6 p.m.
* April 14, Kihei Community Center, 6 p.m.
* April 17, Lihikai Elementary School, Kahului, 6:30 p.m.
* April 22, Helene Hall, Hana, 6 p.m.
* April 24, Council Chambers, Wailuku, 6 p.m.
It is in your best interest to speak out and inform your elected officials how tax dollars should be spent. I encourage everyone to participate because, after all, it is your money.
* Mike White holds the County Council seat for the Paia/Haiku/Makawao residency areas. He is the chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. "Chair's 3 Minutes" is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.