Honolulu City Council members approved a city operating budget on Wednesday that cut millions of dollars from the proposal Mayor Kirk Caldwell submitted before COVID-19 devastated the island’s economy.

The approved operating budget of $2.9 billion is $64.5 million less than what Caldwell had initially sought. Officials were tasked with addressing a $130 million shortfall. The city axed vacant positions and planned raises as well as millions in transportation costs that the city said can be covered by federal aid funds.

“The city is well-positioned to ride out the next year or two of this recession, but not without its challenges and some difficulty, or even hardship,” said Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan.  

Honolulu City Council Member Joey Manahan. 8 feb 2017
Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan said the administration and the council collaborated on cuts. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Honolulu has not laid off or furloughed city workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As for new revenue streams, the council approved raising fees at city golf courses and at the Department of Planning and Permitting but did not consider a tax rate hike.

The council OK’d a $1.38 billion capital budget that is $115 million larger than what the mayor requested. Members also approved their own $23.8 million legislative budget, which reduced salary costs but was still about $400,000 higher than originally proposed.

At the council meeting, Councilwoman Kym Pine called the budget “optimistic” because Honolulu could experience the biggest budget shortfall in its history. She said it will be important to monitor property tax collections and that the budget may need to be reconsidered in the coming months.

“I do believe the mayor should hold back from spending everything all at once before his term is over because I do believe the crisis will be huge, to come,” she said.

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