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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Kaua'i plans privatized county service

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, taking advantage of newly approved legislation, has proposed the first privatized county service on Kaua'i.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka is "vigorously exploring" other privatization ideas.

Advertiser library photo

In her supplemental budget submittal yesterday, Kusaka proposed that restrooms in county parks be cleaned on busy days by private companies in addition to public workers.

"The passage of Senate Bill 1096 successfully completes our six-year quest to utilize privatization as a tool to save money and better deliver services to the public," she said.

The state Legislature last week approved a bill that would give the governor and each county mayor authority to contract out services, or to allow public worker unions to compete for the work through a managed competition process.

Kusaka's proposal would not replace any existing parks employees, but would supplement their work in a field traditionally handled by government employees.

Mayoral administrative assistant Wallace Rezentes Sr. said that parks maintenance workers already clean restrooms in county parks at 5 a.m. on weekends.

The proposal would supplement that with two additional bathroom cleanings Friday through Sunday and on holidays.

"What we are trying to do is to decrease the complaints and upgrade the service," Rezentes said.

The administration has proposed setting aside $100,000 in the upcoming year's budget to pay for the additional service.

"In the coming months, we will be vigorously exploring other opportunities presented by this landmark legislation to identify services that can and should be privatized," Kusaka said in her budget message.

Another area of increased spending is the county's beach safety program. Kusaka is proposing increasing the county lifeguard force from 10 to 16 to add the beach parks at Ha'ena and Kealia to those already provided with lifeguards.

The mayor's supplemental budget, which still must be approved by the council, calls for $83.7 million in spending for the operation of the county. That's up from the $82.9 million originally proposed for the 2001-02 fiscal year, and an 18.6 percent increase in spending over the present fiscal year.

While the county is getting slightly less in property tax revenues than anticipated, the Legislature gave it a boost of $2.16 million in tax revenue from public service companies.

This is money paid by public utilities in lieu of real property taxes, but which has been kept by the state since it transferred property taxation duties to the counties.

Property taxation is the largest source of money for the county. This year, property taxes will be collected on a taxable value of $5.78 billion. The value of single-family homes, homesteads and apartments represents half that value, and resort properties account for 19 percent.