WAILUKU - The County Council voted unanimously Monday to fix the real property tax rates as it had last discussed them in April, but two members voted with reservations.
Council Member Sol Kaho'ohalahala said he would like to review the agricultural and conservation rates, which are both $5 per $1,000 on the current list.
That puts them on the same level as improved residential and apartment, the two categories where renters live.
Proposed rates range from $2.50 per $1,000 valuation for homeowner to $14 per $1,000 for time-share properties. However, the effective rate for homeowners is much less, considering the deduction that owner-occupants get on their assessed value.
The council met Monday to take public testimony on tax rates to be imposed in the next budget. No one showed up to comment on the fuel tax (from 0 for biodiesel to 16 cents per gallon for gasoline) or the vehicle weight tax (2.75 cents a pound for cars, trucks and noncommercial vehicles, 4 cents for the rest).
Four people testified on property taxes. Pat Borge objected to the difference between the rate for improved residential, $5, and commercialized residential, $4.
As a landlord, he said, he has a long-term tenant, and if the taxes are higher, he will "pass that on to my tenant."
"Most people are trying to save money to buy a house," he said, so raising taxes on renters just hurts them.
"I should open up my long-term rental" as a bed-and-breakfast, he said. That got Council Member Mike Molina's attention.
After the meeting, Molina said he wanted to revisit the rates for improved residential and commercialized residential to consider the issue of "equality." Monday's vote was on a resolution to set the rates. The ordinance now goes to first reading, where Molina and Kaho'ohalahala may bid to revise the list.
Short-term rental landlords had complained that times are hard and a high real property tax rate could put them out of business.
Borge scoffed at that. First, he said, people living in five-bedroom houses in Maui Meadows "gotta be up there" in income.
"Let's be fair," he said. "The poor are gonna be poor, and the rich are gonna be richer."
He said people who choose to be part of the visitor industry should accept that there will be flush and slack times.
"I have been in tourism for 30 years," he said, running a livery stable and riding tour.
"When it's slow, it's slow. My horses gotta eat. I don't come running to you for feed for my horses. You understand that chance if you're going to be in the tourist business."
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.