Mayor Michael Victorino returned the FY 2021 operating budget to the Maui County Council today without his signature.
Mayor Victorino raised objections to the County Council-drafted budget, but he will allow it to take effect on July 1, 2020.
In March, Mayor Victorino submitted his proposed budget as the County of Maui faced the great uncertainty of the growing coronavirus pandemic. It provided for the future of our children, seniors and families and took into account steps toward diversifying the County’s economic future and increasing food security.
“It was difficult to estimate the extent of the economic impacts of COVID-19 would have to our State and County economy, yet we moved forward knowing we must plan conservatively and be poised to take any repercussions seriously,” Mayor Victorino said in a letter Friday to Councilmembers. “The health, safety and well-being of our residents is first and foremost the top priority for me and my administration, especially during this pandemic. Our families need to focus on taking care of each other instead of worrying about increased costs for County services.”
Mayor Victorino said he was disheartened by the Council’s rate increase for both residential trash collection and landfill tipping fees. “Although the increase appears minimal, many of our residents and businesses will find it difficult to absorb any further undue financial burden during this time,” he said.
Mayor Victorino also noted that the Council deleted operational funds and eliminated two positions for the Central Maui Landfill Sunday greenwaste program, after only four months of providing the additional day of disposal service to residents for lawn clippings and other greenwaste.
Although he said he understood the need to reduce the County’s budget amid anticipated lower revenue caused by COVID-19 impacts, Mayor Victorino said, “I was saddened that the further reductions to the department-proposed requests were offset by additional funds being appropriated for programs and projects initiated by Councilmembers.”
Mayor Victorino said Maui County’s visitor industry has experienced a complete shutdown from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 37,000 residents left unemployed, many of those in the hospitality industry. Although businesses have been able to reopen, many have chosen not to because out-of-state visitors have not yet returned.
“I understand the impact of the visitor industry on our environment and our culture,” Mayor Victorino said. “I also understand the need to transform the whole industry and continue efforts to better educate our visitors. The extent of the economic impact COVID-19 has had on our community magnifies the importance of developing and maintaining a well-balanced, diversified economy. However, there remains an urgent need to support a focus on quality over quantity in the tourism industry. The Maui County Visitors Association needs funding to assist in an economic recovery for the industry that will continue to provide for our residents’ livelihood, as well as generate tax revenue to help fund essential services.”
Mayor Victorino said his proposed property tax rates would have provided relief for hotels, resorts and short-term rentals from the economic downturn and allow them to provide assistance for their employees for medical insurance, payroll and other related programs.