There’s no good reason to raise taxes
West Hawaii Today’s May 14 front page “Council Contingency” by Nancy Cook Lauer was a very good, relevant article that with a few changes should have been printed a few years ago when the council very graciously voted to provide themselves $300,000 each for discretionary spending. In those days, some viewed the county to be flush in cash, however, the council’s knack for spending then is a part of the reason we are facing another tax hike today.
Contingency funding, discretionary budget, re-election fund or whatever it may be called, is not a good reason to raise our property taxes. While most council members can be trusted to do right by their constituents, some in the past have rewarded their supporters by favoring their wishes over the needs of nonsupporters, ensuring support for the next election.
While the need to deal with district emergencies are a real concern, perhaps now is not the time for individual discretionary budgeting. It may be more appropriate for the council to have a lump sum contingency fund shared by the nine councilmembers. When an emergency need arises in a district, the council could designate that three agreeing members may approve the spending appropriation until the full council could confirm the need in the public forum. By doing so, everyone would be apprised of what constitutes an emergency and be able to question the validity of it.
The present practice guarantees that the total amount designated to the councilman will be spent with little public oversight just like the days when council members had their $300,000 each to spend. The reality is that, with increased public scrutiny, only true emergencies will be funded regardless of the costs. This proposal should result in savings and more willingness to fund the increase in budgeting through increased taxation.