Roads, bus routes, sewer improvements, parks top Caldwell's list

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Mar 01 2013 06:47:00 PM HST

Mayor Kirk Caldwell rolled out some big budget items today and says he'll have to charge an extra nickel per gallon to help pay for it.

HONOLULU -

Friday was the deadline for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's to present his budget to the City Council.

It includes a 6.5 percent increase over last year, but Caldwell says he's paying for promises he made on the campaign trail, even if those promises aren't cheap.

"It's not the sexiest thing to work on but it's the very reason I ran for the job," said Caldwell.

It could be his toughest sell: a 5-cent increase in the gas tax.

But Caldwell said improving the roads we drive on, the parks we play in, and the services we need every day are his biggest priorities.

"Otherwise we're dooming a generation of people who live on this island to live in a declining level of infrastructure. I don't think we want that," he said.

It's a 2.09 billion budget with five priorities:

-$226 million for solid waste and waste water projects.

-$153 million to repave and restore roads, $50 million more than last year.

-$17.7 million to improve parks and its facilities.

-$3.5 million to restore or enhance eight bus routes.

-It does not include a property tax increase.

-A 5-cent per gallon gas tax increase.

-And ending a waiver on photovoltaic permit fees, which Caldwell said will save about $7 million.

"We want to look at places we can trim without raising taxes," said councilwoman Ann Kobayashi after the press conference.

She said the next step will entail council members combing through that budget line by line, to make sure added expenses are worth the price to an already taxed residents.

"The sewer fees are going up again this year, the water rates are going up, everything is going up, and if we raise gas tax, that means when people go to the market their going to pay more," she said.

"I think it's important to focus on a few major priorities instead of running out addressing here, addressing there, and not really moving anything forward. Then having people ask what is it that we did? I think this is more focused plan that will show results," said Caldwell.

Caldwell said he's been meeting with repaving companies to talk about a new slate of jobs, but also on how to get all that road work done expeditiously.

He also said he's making it a priority to spruce up city parks, everything from fixing leaky roofs, to replacing playground equipment, and adding soap to bathrooms.

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