The County Council has given the first of two required approvals to a bill requiring the County to make payments toward its retiree benefits account. The measure introduced by Chairman Dominic Yagong would require any fund balance at the end of the fiscal year exceeding $5 million to be applied to the so-called GASB-45 obligations, unless at least half of the actuary’s recommended payment is placed in the operating budget.
The bill advanced on a 5-2 vote last week with two members absent, meaning it may not survive if Mayor Billy Kenoi vetoes it. But Yagong told KPUA News he doubts the Mayor would veto it.
“If the Mayor vetoes this, he’s going to have to explain to the people of the County of Hawai`i that if you have additional funds left over from your previous budget, why you would not want to spend those additional funds on expenses that are due,” Yagong said. “So I don’t think he will veto it.”
The budget for the current fiscal year defers payments of about $20 million and Kenoi has proposed doing the same thing for the coming year. Experts have agreed with the Mayor’s contention that the budgets are balanced, the county is paid up on its obligations and that GASB deferrals are not required by law. But they caution that the longer those obligations are deferred, the more it will cost later.