County looks to reappropriate $8.4M in unspent fuel tax funds

  • West Hawaii Today file photo Vincent Souza from Grace Pacific, left, guides a truck while county inspector Joon So watches the paving process Dec. 9, 2015, on Kaiminani Drive in North Kona.

As more money pumps into county road projects, thanks in part to a 161% increase in the fuel tax rate since 2017, the county is having trouble spending it fast enough.

The County Council will be asked next week to reappropriate $8.4 million in fuel tax money that’s due to lapse because it wasn’t spent on time. The money accumulated in the accounts during the past 11 years, with $2 million of it not spent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.

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County administration attributes some of the unspent funds to last year’s lava disaster and Hurricane Lane, which pulled road crews off regular projects to handle emergencies.

A portion of the balance, which has accumulated since 1996, also comes from projects that were closed out, leaving money in various accounts that now needs to be moved into more pressing projects, said Deputy Finance Director Steve Hunt on Tuesday.

“There are various reasons they didn’t get spent,” Hunt said.

By “collapsing” those accounts and aggregating the money, it can be used for new projects, such as those using federal money in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, he said.

“We’re taking all the lapsed funds and reappropriating them to projects that are priorities,” Hunt said.

Money left on the table includes $1.3 million in local road projects, with the majority of the unspent money attributed to Puna. The Puna District accounted for $454,722 in unspent road money, compared to $365,394 for South Hilo roads, $254,987 for North Hilo roads, $200,280 for North Kona roads, $60,241 for Hamakua roads and $7,629 for Ka‘u roads.

The current district apportionment formula for the Local Road Improvement category of the county fuel tax program distributes funds among the tax map districts according to each district’s percent of miles of local streets. The money must be spent in the assigned district.

“It’s really strict on where it can be spent,” said Department of Public Works Business Manager Sharilynn Olivar.

Other money set to be reallocated includes $5.3 million for roadway projects and $1.7 million for bridge inspections and repairs. That’s for the Opea Stream Bridge, Kaiwiilahilahi Gulch Bridge, Kaiwiki Bridge #1, all on Old Mamalahoa Highway, and the Honolii Stream Bridge on Kahoa Road.

The roadway projects include 22 specific resurfacing projects islandwide, under the category “FHWA Pavement Preservation Restoration Projects.”

The County Council in 2017 raised the county fuel tax from 8.8 cents per gallon to 23 cents over a three-year period. That adds another $6.1 million to the annual budget.

A one-half cent surcharge on the general excise tax also was added in the past few years, with $50 million in annual proceeds dedicated to road and mass transit projects.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

FHWA Pavement Preservation Restoration Projects

Henry Street: Kuakini Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway

Kilauea Avenue: Wailoa Bridge to Puainako Street

Kawili Street: Lanikaula Street to Kapiolani Street

Lanikaula Street: Manono Street to Ululani Street

Waianuenue Avenue: Kaiulani Street to Rainbow Drive

Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 1 of 3: Kiloa Road to Keopuka Heights Road

Palani Road/Alii Drive: Phase 1 of 2 — Kuakini Highway (Highway 11) to Royal Poinciana Drive

Kamehameha Avenue: Ponahawai Street to Waianuenue Avenue

Kilauea Avenue: Ponahawai Street to Keawe Street

Keawe Street: Kilauea Avenue to Waianuenue Avenue

Kinoole Street: Phase 1 of 2 — Wailuku Drive to Lono Street

Komohana Avenue: Mohouli Street to Puainako Street

Manono Street: Kekuanaoa Street to Kuawa Street

Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 2 of 3 — Keopuka Heights Road to Hokukano Road

Palani Road/ Alii Drive: Phase 2 of 2 — Royal Poinciana Drive to Mamalahoa Bypass

Kinoole Street: Phase 2 of 2 — Lono Street to Haihai Street

Mamalahoa Highway: Phase 3 of 3 —Hokukano Road to Old Mamalahoa Highway

Waikoloa Road: Phase 1 of 2 — Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Highway 19) to Pua Melia Street

Mohouli Street: Kilauea Avenue to Komohana Street

Haawina Street/Mamalahoa Highway: Kuakini Highway to Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 190)

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Waikoloa Road: Phase 2 of 2 — Pua Melia Street to Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 190)

Hina Lani Drive: Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Highway 19) to Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 190)

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