Honolulu Mayor outlines FY22 budget: ‘When you have less money, things have to happen’

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi held a press conference on Tuesday, March 2, to discuss the city budget for 2022.

“It’s less about what we’ve done so far. It’s about what we’re going to do,” Blangiardi said. “I think that’s the whole thrust of the fiscal ’22 operating budget.”

The $2.9 billion budget is down 2.3%, or $73 million less than what was approved a year ago.

“When you have less money, things have to happen,” Blangiardi said on Tuesday.

The mayor said he wanted to make sure that all 8,656 of City and County of Honolulu workers will not be impacted by the results of the pandemic. The main objective for the operating budget costs, he said, was to protect employees.

According to the mayor, there will be no furloughs; however, with nearly 2,000 vacant city positions, there will be a hiring freeze implemented with conditions.

“Our hiring freeze will not affect anybody in uniform — our firefighters, our police department, our EMS, our Ocean Safety people, all of them,” Blangiardi said.

For the mayor, the 1,949 vacant positions is too many. That comes out to $42 million in the budget.

“We have a lot of flexibility in our plan to allow us to hire back when we identify people that we believe are going to be able to make a contribution,” Blangiardi said.

In December 2020, his predecessor had submitted a budget for Blangiardi to work with.

Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said his staff and every county department made cuts wherever possible to close the more than $400 million budget gap left from decreased tax revenues and other economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blangiardi’s administration is following through with this plan by reducing operating expenses at all departments. That includes reducing salaries and current expenses to operate the departments.

“We also made the very tough decision this year to defer the pre-payment portion of our future employee health benefits,” said Andrew Kawano, director of the city’s budget and fiscal services.

The retirees and their benefits will not be impacted, the city later said in a press release. The move will free up nearly $140 million to be used for current operational needs.

The intent, Kawano said, is to protect jobs and at the same time make sure that core services provided by the city continue to be provided.

Below are some of the highlights in the FY22 proposed operating budget:

  • Commitment to work closely and strategically with HART
  • $37.5M for renovation and/or development of low income affordable housing
  • $10.7M for homeless programs including the Housing First initiative, Hale Mauliola Housing Navigation Center, and services at the Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei
  • $10.4M for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improvements targeting underserved communities like Waianae, Nanakuli and Maili
  • $9.7M for electrification of transportation infrastructure
  • $35M on rehabilitation roadways
  • $6.9M to upgrade traffic controls and signals
  • $36M for various park improvements across the island
  • $485.7M for solid waste, sewer and wastewater facility improvements
  • $3.4M for flood control improvements
  • $4.5M for HPD station improvements
  • $3.8M for HFD station improvements
  • $1M for EMS Ocean Safety station improvements
  • $2.1M for telecommunications facilities upgrades
  • $6.5M for park improvements in areas where there is 51% low and moderate income households

Click here to view the operating budget.

Click here to view the capital improvements program budget.

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