HONOLULU(KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he submitted a budget for the incoming mayor to work with, in what may have been his final press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
The city said it was able to close the more than $400 million budget gap without any furloughs or layoffs.
The mayor said, his staff and every county department made cuts wherever possible to close the budget shortfall left from decreased tax revenues and other economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. He said, it was vital to close the gap without hurting Honolulu residents who are already struggling financially.
“We’re not doing any layoffs or furloughs or releasing any employees. We have not raised real property tax rates nor increased fees in this budget,” Caldwell explained.
Caldwell said, they did it in part by slashing 10% from every city department’s budget.
“But have maintained core services, which are critical particularly when they are the things you need just to get by day to day,” Caldwell said.
The mayor said, he chose to complete the budgets ahead of schedule to help the incoming Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
“If we were still in office, we would have been working on this budget and balanced it and sending it in March,” Caldwell said. “But we feel it’s our responsibility to submit a balanced budget to the incoming administration as a recommendation and they can take it or leave it and adjust it.”
Caldwell also announced the County spent all of the $387 million in CARES Act funds it received in April, despite the deadline to use the funds being pushed back to December, 2021.
“We wanted to make sure that when people needed it, the money was spent. We weren’t thinking about saving it or extending it to 2021, but actually putting money into places that needed it currently, which were businesses and individuals,” Honolulu County Cheif of Staff Gary Kurokawa explained.
Kurokawa said the largest chunk –$175 million– went to help small businesses. Health-related areas like providing personal protective equipment and programs used to revitalize the economy also took large pieces of the pie.
Caldwell said, his staff has coordinated with the organizations that helped with the programs funded with CARES Act money so that once Congress releases funds from the recently signed $900 billion pandemic relief package, the money can get to those who need it most quickly.