LOS ANGELES — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell returned unsigned several bills related to the executive operating budget, expressing concerns that  restrictions placed by the City Council on the provision for vacant positions and salary increases may hurt city services.

"I proposed a bare bones budget that strengthened core city services after several years of fiscal restrictions, and that proposed a modest increase in the fuel tax rate to fund increases in bus services and pay for road improvements," Caldwell said in a letter sent to the council Monday. "The City Council rejected the increase in the fuel tax rate and added a total of $10 million to $11 million in grants-in-aid and other expenditures to the executive operating budget."

Caldwell claimed in his letter that the failure of the City Council to adopt his proposed fuel tax increase would result in a $15 million decrease in revenues. From his viewpoint, the City Council then compounded the error by increasing spending, resulting in a budget imbalance of $26 million.

The council attempted to rectify the shortfall by cutting one-half of the funding required to fill vacant positions, Caldwell said.

The size of this cut will inevitably weaken the city's operations in fiscal year 2014. Departments will be unable to fill necessary positions, resulting in cuts to core services including police recruitment, parks, maintenance and activities, and sewer and refuse operations, he said.

"The City Council has chosen to defer revenue increases that are needed in Fiscal Year 2014, yet is willing to appropriate additional grants at the expense of core city services," he said.

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