Billion Dollar Budget Discussions
By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter
For the first time, Maui County’s fiscal year budget will run over $1 billion. What does this mean for Molokai?
For the 2023 fiscal year, which goes into effect July 1, 2022, key investments are slated for Molokai’s community and infrastructure. The Puko’o fire station, Molokai Rural Health Community Association and Molokai High School Robotics Club are highlighted as areas of specific investment.
However, hopes for relocating the Molokai Police Station, which is currently located in an aging building in a flood zone, have yet to be realized.
The police department has looked at a couple sites and plans to “talk with the county to see what is feasible,” according to Molokai Police Captain Jamie Winfrey.
While there is no current timeline for the project, “the sooner the better” said Winfrey.
Much to residents’ relief, Mayor Michael Victorino addressed critical issues with flights on Mokulele Airlines. Thirteen out of nineteen of the Maui County representatives were unable to make it to the Mitchell Pau’ole Center due to flight cancelations on Mokulele.
Victorino voiced concerns over the lack of transportation options for Molokai. He assured residents that he was looking into classifying Molokai as “essential need,” thus bringing in competition and additional services “to help the people of Molokai.”
The mayor also highlighted the availability of funding from the recently passed Federal Infrastructure Act.
“We’re going to have money to make some improvements in areas that we’ve needed for a long time,” he explained.
Specific programs aimed at aiding Maui County’s agriculture industry, led by recently appointed Director of Agriculture Kali Arce of Molokai, were also a focus.
Arce explained that the county is looking to address “education and advocacy” as well as emphasize “stronger pathways to agriculture” through the education system.
Arce also discussed new approaches for agriculture. These included listening sessions with farmers on all three Maui County islands and working with grocery stores to figure out which imported foods could be produced locally.
For Molokai residents, the meeting was an opportunity to voice budget concerns but also say mahalo for successful county-funded programs.
“Every single organization in here affects all of our lives,” said one resident.
Requests in funding ranged from the implementation of emergency sirens up in Kualupu’u and Ho’olehua, to improving programs at the Molokai Occupational Center, to continuing aid for Sust’ainable Molokai.
One area that received immediate support from the mayor was a request for continued funding for Molokai’s kupuna care services. These services include grass cutting along with guided online classes like painting and stretching. Victorino was unwavering in his support, pledging “as long as I am in this office, your program will be funded to the fullest extent.”
Multiple community members took to the microphone to say thanks for MEO bus services, Molokai’s Clean and Sober Homes, and recent livestock programs.
“Your help, aid and assistance is deeply appreciated by me and many others,” said resident David Kangus in reference to the county funded bus.
While certain issues remain pending, such as concerns over water management through the Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands – which one resident described as “incestuous relations of fiscal infidelity” — Victorino and county representatives maintained optimism that these issues will be addressed.
“We expect over the next three or four years to really get a lot of this taken care of and upgraded to where it needs to be,” said Victorino.
Molokai residents can learn more about the 2023-24 fiscal budget plan at mauicounty.gov/Budget.