Finance director confirmation and circuit breaker tax credit considered

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

Maui County is one step closer to appointing a new director of finance. The County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee unanimously recommended approval of Mark Walker’s nomination to the position this past week.

After nearly seven years on the job, Danilo Agsalog resigned as director of finance effective Sept. 30. As a result, the mayor nominated Deputy Director Walker as the director and he has been named acting director until confirmed.

Supporters of Walker testified before the policy committee, highlighting Walker’s finance background and his success as deputy director.

In the past, most directors were not subject to council confirmation and appointments were made at the discretion of the mayor.

In the 2016 election, voters approved a charter amendment that now subjects 11 directors to council confirmation and, possibly, additional professional qualifications. The intent of the added oversight is to ensure highly qualified professionals are selected to lead county departments.

The amendment was slated to take effect in 2019 to apply to the newly elected mayor’s appointees. However, out of an abundance of caution, the corporation counsel advised that because the amendment’s effective date was not a part of the ballot question, immediate council confirmation was the most transparent way to follow the intent of voters.

The council has 60 days to act on mayoral appointments and therefore a final council vote on the director of finance is required before Nov. 28.

The departure of Agsalog also triggered a provision in the County Charter requiring the council to audit the finance director’s accounts as a result of his or her resignation or removal from the position.

Pursuant to this provision, the Budget and Finance Committee recommended adoption of a resolution on Tuesday to authorize an independent audit.

The finance director oversees many county financial accounts and the audit will evaluate the director’s DMV and licensing accounts, sewer, water, solid waste, and any real property tax accounts to verify they are all current with no irregularities. Purchasing card accounts, procurement contracts he has handled and reimbursements during his tenure in office will also be reviewed.

The audit is slated to be completed within the next two to three months and will be reviewed by the budget committee.

At the same meeting, a unanimous recommendation was also made to approve adjustments to the circuit breaker tax credit.

The intent of the credit is for taxpayers earning below a certain income to be given property tax relief when their property taxes exceed 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.

The circuit breaker credit was initially created to provide relief to full-time residents whose properties have been affected by significant valuation increases, and as a result, their taxes have become a burden.

As homeowner values have increased by nearly 30 percent since 2015, the committee agreed to increase the upper limits of the homeowner’s gross building assessed value by $100,000. This means, qualified homeowners with building values up to $550,000 may apply for the tax credit.

The amendment also ensures that current recipients are not disqualified due to rising market values, thus burdening them financially.

The deadline to apply for the credit continues to be Dec. 31 for the upcoming tax year. Residents needing assistance with the application or who have further questions can contact the Department of Finance’s Real Property Tax Division at (808) 270-7697.

In closing, I would like to thank all veterans for their service to our country as we celebrate their heroism on Saturday.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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