Billion Dollar Budget Hearing
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
Garnering nearly half of its strength from property taxes, the Mayor’s proposed Maui County Budget for the 2024 fiscal year sits at over $1 billion. For the first time since 2019, the Molokai community had a chance to voice their proposals and questions in-person.
Before the panel of County Councilmembers, which included Molokai’s Keani Rawlins- Fernandez, Molokai residents offered mahalos, concerns and petitions for future funding for Molokai-specific projects.
Multiple Molokai residents took to the microphone in support of expanding the Maui Boys and Girls Club to include Molokai. With a less active Youth Center, Molokai kids between the ages of 7 and 17 lack positive activities, outside of sports, to participate in, according to Juvenile Probation Officer Brent Nakihei.
Molokai’s Police Captain Jamie Winfrey also shared support for a Boys and Girls Club. Winfrey cited the 70 juvenile arrests last year as a consequence of these lack of opportunities.
“We need to find an alternative for our youth so that they don’t end up becoming adult offenders,” said Winfrey, adding that “people always say that the children are our future, but let us not forget that they are also our present.”
Residents also shared testimony about the need for additional on-island urgent care.
With the passing of Drs. Aluli and Thomas in the past year, more than 3,000 patients on Molokai have had to transition to new primary care providers, explained Molokai nurse practioner Donna Gamiao. This shift, according to Gamiao, has led to more residents leaning on emergency care services. Unfortunately, emergency care is expensive and can have long wait times.
Gamiao added that “Molokai is becoming the sickest island in the state.”
At the meeting, Gamiao proposed to bring a private urgent care, rather than emergency, to Molokai to address this immediate need. While this project has private funding, it is still two months out of operating and only needs $51,000 to begin now.
County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez pointed out that with the county budget going into effect July,1, it would not be able to meet this quick turn-around.
Molokai Arts Center, Maui Economic Opportunity and Molokai Rural Community Health Association programs also brought repeated support throughout the night. Mostly, administrators asked for continued funding so that these programs can serve the Molokai community into the future. From transportation to art and business classes, from lomi massages for kupuna to telehealth, these Molokai institutions rely on county funding to deliver critical services.
Residents also petitioned for the instatement of an additional fire fighter position for the east end of Molokai.
Assistant Fire Chief Hanale Lindo explained that “a third person would absolutely make things safer for personnel.”
The County councilmembers assured Molokai residents that their testimony would be compiled and shared with budget decisionmakers. Molokai community members can view the Maui County budget for fiscal year 2024 at https://mauicounty.gov/139/Budget-Office.