Maui Mayor Michael Victorino on Thursday released his proposed $1 billion budget for the next year, outlining how he plans to run Maui County and invest in new projects like repaving roads, boosting beach parking options for local residents and shoring up water systems to protect against natural disasters.

During a presentation in Council Chambers, Victorino laid out his priorities and plan to spend taxpayer dollars and other pots of money over the next year. The 968-page spending plan details how much funding goes to basic government services — police and fire departments, salaries for government workers, roads and sewer lines — in addition to other county-run programs and services, such as grants for local farmers to boost food security, funding for affordable housing and support for arts and cultural programs.

Maui County locator map

In his State of the County address last week, Victorino discussed his top focuses for the year to come, which include promoting economic diversification, better management of tourism, protecting the county against the climate crisis and ramping up the construction of housing for working families.

The mayor also touched on a few different ways the county could tackle those challenges, including setting more money aside for the county’s emergency fund, increasing dollars for housing programs and ramping up workforce training programs.

“For decades, Hawaii has talked about a diversified economy,” Victorino said. “Yet meaningful action has always been put off until tomorrow because our hospitality industry was so dependable … but times are changing, and changing quickly.”

This year, Maui’s elected leaders will be tasked with weighing what to do with an influx of cash. The state recently allowed counties to start charging an additional 3% tax on resorts and hotel rooms, on top of the state’s existing 10.25% hotel room tax — which is estimated to bring in an additional $60 million for Maui County, the mayor said.

“We will use it wisely, and we will use it effectively,” Victorino said, adding that he wanted to funnel the new revenue into affordable housing programs.

Since the pandemic began, and out-of-state buyers have flooded Maui’s housing market, housing prices have soared beyond many families’ financial reach. The mayor said Thursday that his budget plan includes putting $29 million into the county’s affordable housing fund and earmarking $1 million for a program to help first-time home buyers with up to $30,000 in down payment assistance.

He also wants to spend $1.5 million to study investments the county could make on its own land — for example, roads, sewer systems and water lines — to help spur the construction of homes that local families can afford. Historically, developers have been on the hook for infrastructure costs, which has in some cases made it harder for housing projects to pencil out.

Developer Mike Atherton has been working for nearly two decades to build Waikapu Country Town on former sugarcane lands in central Maui.
Developer Mike Atherton has been working for nearly two decades to build Waikapu Country Town on former sugar cane lands in central Maui. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2022

Among the mayor’s other priorities Victorino outlined Thursday: Setting aside $17 million to upgrade the War Memorial Gym and War Memorial Stadium; $5 million to upgrade the water system in Upper Kula; and $33 million to improve roads, including Lower Main Street, Lahainaluna Road, South Kihei Road and Makawao Avenue. The mayor is also asking the council to use $43 million in bond funding to pay for the design and construction of the Halau of ‘Oiwi Art, a facility to perpetuate hula and other Native Hawaiian practices.

The mayor’s unveiling of his proposed budget is just the first step in a long process that will take place over the next few weeks as the mayor, county department heads and County Council members negotiate the final budget. The County Council must approve how the money is spent before it can flow to various county departments and programs.

The county council members charged with examining the budget are scheduled to begin discussions April 4 and will continue talks through the entire month. Residents who want to get involved can share their concerns or feedback with council members during each meeting.

Maui County runs its calendar by a fiscal year — not calendar year — which means that the council must wrap up discussions and agree on the budget before it takes effect July 1. The budget ends on June 30, 2023.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

Read the mayor’s proposed budget for Maui County below.

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