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Investing in Community

Mayoral Budget Office visits Molokai to gather testimony

When Mayor Alan Arakawa and his team of county officials visited Molokai last week, they did what many Molokai residents do every day–they waited for a ride from the Maui Economic Opportunities (MEO) bus.

That’s an example of ways in which the county is limiting their own spending to make more funds available for community needs, explained Arakawa as he discussed the county’s upcoming budget with Molokai residents last week.

The budget for the current fiscal year was $549.9 million, and Arakawa expects around the same numbers for 2013 to 2014. In a time of budget cuts across the board, Arakawa said his office has managed to maintain a consistent budget due in large part to limiting excessive spending within his departmental administration. That involves consolidating certain departments and holding each department accountable for their own spending, he said — including riding the MEO bus rather than renting a car. This has resulted in a three percent reduction in county expenditures over the past year, which has helped make more funds available to be distributed to the community, he added.

“We’re trying to do a lot of things for the community, but at the same time we need the community to help itself and develop economic systems,” said Arakawa at Wednesday’s budget meeting. “We want to help with hand-ups, not hand-outs.”

Hand-up programs, Arakawa said, are programs that will help build the community. Examples include existing initiatives like MEO transportation and the Kuha`o Business Center, as well as new ideas such as an on-island mobile slaughter unit to process venison for resale on the island, he said.

Community Support for Community Services
The MEO bus system was a top concern at the meeting, with many individuals and organizations testifying in favor of the services it provides to Molokai.

“[Students] come from Kilohana to Maunaloa,” said Molokai Middle School teacher Kaeo Kawaa, who teaches ukulele lessons after school, helps coach girls and boys volleyball and also runs the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. “All these programs happen because we have the MEO bus in the afternoon.”

Other community members advocated programs like Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), core classes at the Kuha`o Business Center, the Molokai Humane Society, other MEO programs like Headstart and UPLINK. Other testimony ranged from increasing solar energy initiatives to improving sidewalks and roadways.

Pono Asano, community member and representative of the Molokai Youth Center, stressed the need for community facility improvements, and proposed initiatives like an outdoor basketball court, an expanded tennis court and new field lights for the baseball field.

“We need to continue outdoor lifestyle facilities to promote health and total wellness,” said Asano. “Just give us the opportunity –we’ll use them [the facilities] and we’ll take care [of them].”

County Budget Process
The meeting on Molokai was one of eight community meetings held across the county to discuss the budget for the upcoming year.

“This is the first step of the preparation of the budget where the mayor and cabinet members go out and receive input on the needs of the community,” said Sandy Baz, budget director for the mayor’s office.

From here, the board will consider all comments and submit a proposed budget to the Maui County Council on March 25, 2013. The County Council will then conduct a round of similar community meetings, usually held in April or May. The budget will be finalized in June and become effective July 1 through June 30, 2014.

“It’s heartwarming to hear the services that the county supports are being utilized, especially MEO transportation and the life-changing effect it has on the youth and those that are low-income or disabled,” said Baz.

Public comments may be e-mailed to office@mauicounty.gov or a community survey may be filled out via mauicounty.gov. Submissions will be accepted until November 30.


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