Kenoi converting band to nonprofit
By John Burnett
Mayor Billy Kenoi's administration appears to be moving to convert the Hawai'i County Band into a private nonprofit corporation.
An April 29 letter from Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida to Paul Arceo, the band's director, invites Arceo to "participate in the development of the next chapter in the history of our band by serving as an inaugural board member in the private nonprofit band."
"If preparations are not made now for the incorporation of the band into a private entity capable of fundraising, there is a distinct possibility next fiscal year will find the band completely unfunded," Ashida wrote.
Arceo said last week that he had not responded to Ashida's letter, calling the idea of privatizing the band "not too popular with me."
Ashida sent a follow-up letter to Arceo on Thursday that said "the concept of incorporating the band into a private nonprofit entity" has generated "encouraging feedback from many in our community."
Ashida also said that private lawyers and accountants have offered their services free to assist with the necessary paperwork to convert the band to private nonprofit status.
"Allowing the band to privately fundraise without requiring it to compete against elderly and youth programs for scarce general fund monies offers the band a distinct advantage," Ashida wrote.
Kenoi backed off an earlier proposal to eliminate both the Hilo-based Hawai'i County Band and the West Hawai'i Band from the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The current $376 million operating budget proposal reduces the bands' budget from $381,602 to $276,798 for Arceo and about 30 part-time band members.
Arceo, a full-time county Parks and Recreation Department employee, said the current budget allows for 39 part-time musicians but that "seven or eight positions" are currently unfunded.
"There's enough money to probably do what we do right now, but anything more will probably be not a possibility," Arceo said. "A lot of that savings is because of unfunded positions. They're not going to allow us to fill those positions."
Arceo, like all full-time county employees, will be required to take 24 furlough days in the upcoming fiscal year. Hilo band members are taking 12 furlough days, while the West Hawai'i Band members will take six furlough days. Arceo said he thinks Kenoi's directive for private funding of the band is impractical.
"You take our $250,000 to $300,000 dollars a year out of the budget, that means we have to raise more than $20,000 a month," he said. "That's a lot of money. I don't think we're going to be able to do it. That kind of money is just not available."
He noted the struggles of the Honolulu Symphony, which filed for federal bankruptcy protection in November, listing more than $1 million in debt.
"I question why it's just us. If this is such a great idea, why don't they do it for the entire Parks and Rec department?" Arceo said. "That would save the county more than $25 million."