For county, cost of debt rises
By NANCY COOK LAUER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Hawaii County administration has whittled $2.9 million off its general obligation bond debt, but payments on all county debt increased $4.6 million for the fiscal year that started July 1.
The County Council Finance Committee will hear a report on the county’s debt status when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Hilo. The report is required annually by county code.
The Finance Committee is also slated to give preliminary approval to appropriating additional money for police raises over the next four years, the result of collective bargaining at the state level with the State of Hawaii Police Officers union.
The raises will cost the county an extra $1.3 million this fiscal year, $3.1 million next year, $4.7 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year and $6.9 million in 2016-17, according to information provided by the Finance Department.
The public can speak on agenda items at council chambers in Hilo and the West Hawaii Civic Center, council offices in Pahoa and Waimea or at the Hawaiian Ocean View Community Center.
The county’s annual payment on its debt, including interest and payments on principal, is $39.9 million this year, up from $35.2 million in fiscal year 2012-13. That’s because the county last year had experienced a temporary reduction in debt service expense, Mayor Billy Kenoi said in his budget message to the council.
The county’s debt service limit – the percentage of general expenditures that goes to pay off old bills – currently stands at 10.1 percent. If the administration borrowed all the money that’s been authorized by the County Council, that figure would rise to 12.8 percent.
Are there any new borrowings on the horizon?
“We don’t anticipate any,” Finance Director Nancy Crawford said Friday.
The Government Finance Officers Association, a professional organization of government officials, recommends a debt service limit of no more than 15 percent.
The Finance Committee also will vote on adding two new projects to the county’s capital improvement project list.
The Waimea District Park project will get started with $2.5 million from the county and a matching $2.5 million from the state, according to Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille. The $5 million will start the design and construction of the first phase, she said. The park will be located off Ala Ohia, just east of Parker Ranch headquarters.
Resurfacing Kilauea Avenue in Hilo at a cost of $1.97 million will be paid for with existing county bond funds.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at email@example.com.
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