Deadline approaching for circuit breaker, boards and commissions

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

As the end of the year approaches, there are a few reminders I would like to share.

Earlier this month, the Maui County Council unanimously passed adjustments to the circuit breaker tax credit. The intent of the credit is to provide homeowners with property tax relief if their property taxes exceed 2 percent of their household income. The household income shall not exceed $100,000.

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 council 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 is on 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.

The Office of the Mayor has also announced that applications are now being accepted for boards, councils, commissions and committees due to term expirations and vacancies. Positions that need to be filled range from the Board of Ethics, Board of Water Supply, Maui Planning Commission, to the Salary Commission and Police Commission — just to name a few.

The mayor nominates and the council confirms appointments with terms lasting from two to five years.

Responsibilities include hearing public testimony, reviewing policies and standards, making recommendations to both the mayor and the council, along with making important independent decisions. An example is the fire, police and civil service commissions hold the sole authority to hire their respective department heads, which have a major impact on our community.

While no monetary compensation is provided, the public’s participation provides an important service to the county. The deadline for applications is Dec. 31. Applications are also accepted year-round to fill vacancies due to resignations.

Anyone interested in serving may apply online at www.mauicounty.gov/boards. Paper applications are also available at the county building. Any questions can be directed to the Office of the Mayor at (808) 270-7855.

Finally, earlier this week, the Budget and Finance Committee heard presentations from the state’s Employee Retirement System and the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.

Yearly, the council hears from these organizations to understand how changes to their policies impact Maui County’s annual budget.

Both entities face unfunded liabilities and therefore the state and each county must make additional “catch-up” payments to ensure each fund’s solvency.

Statewide, the retirement system has a $12.44 billion unfunded liability and, as a result, employer contribution rates will increase through 2021. According to estimates, the county will go from remitting around $37 million this fiscal year to $57 million in 2021.

This is nearly a $40 million increase in three years. It remains unclear how the county will be able to afford this large increase in costs, considering real property tax collections for this year are around $303 million.

In addition, the Health Benefits Trust Fund also has a remaining unfunded liability of $297 million for the County of Maui, which has paid down the amount from $446 million. Increased payments are necessary in order to pay the liability off within the next 30 years, pursuant to state law.

Together, the two liabilities constitute significant financial challenges for taxpayers and tough decisions are looming to avoid burdening future generations with more debt.

* Mike White is chairman 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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