September 15, 2009 – Hilo, Hawaii Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi took a moment last Friday to talk about the challenges facing the Big Island economy, and how it will impact next year’s county budget.
According to a news release, Kenoi told his county staff on Monday at a meeting to kick off budget preparations that "deep and painful budget cuts will be necessary to carry the county through the next fiscal year". The county says its facing a $44.8 million hole in next fiscal year’s budget, which combines $33.8 million less in projected revenues and $11 million more in projected expenses.
“We’ve never faced what we face today,” said Mayor Kenoi in Monday’s media release. “Which means we’ve got to take steps that we never took before,” to make government more efficient and reduce county spending. Projected revenue losses include 10 percent of real property taxes, the county’s largest source of revenue, amounting to about $17.9 million. The county also expects to see a loss of interest on investments amounting to about $1.6 million.
During Friday’s discussion with local media, Kenoi emphasized the important role of tourism in the local economy, which helps to explain his recent mission to the mainland, where he joined Hawaii’s other mayors for a special marketing campaign in Los Angeles to promote Hawaii as a visitor destination.
The mayor’s recent trip to California has been the subject of heated debate, especially on internet blog’s like Tiffany Edwards Hunt’s bigislandchronicle.com, where some have criticized the special promotional campaign (entitled “Hawaii: A Thousand Reasons to Smile,” and organized by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau), suggesting that the county should be focusing instead on sustainable agriculture.
In this video, the mayor answers some questions, mostly from Tiffany, about his administration’s approach to the economic situation.