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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 15, 2002

Tough talk on council important to taxpayers

Credit incoming Honolulu City Council Chairman Gary Okino for blunt but needed talk this week about the city's financial future.

At a news conference to introduce the six new council members and detail the new council's organization, Okino said a tax hike may be necessary as the council writes up next year's budget.

This is not the kind of talk we are used to hearing from City Hall, but it is the kind of straightforward heads-up property owners need to hear.

The city is facing a $159 million budget deficit and a long list of expensive projects, including landfills, sewer repairs and rapid transit. For years, the city has staved off the need to raise property taxes by juggling funds, trimming costs and digging deep for efficiencies.

That kind of scramble can only go on so long.

No one likes higher taxes, of course. And if there is a way to operate the city on current resources, that would be ideal. But costs inevitably rise, even without adding services or programs. At some point, the taxpayers will have to make a choice between substantially less city government or higher taxes.

Okino's warning simply prepares Honolulu property owners for that decision. It is far better to cut them in on the discussion now than to wait until the last minute.