WAILUKU - A resolution that would increase property taxes across the board and increase the minimum tax by $100 was approved by the Maui County Council on Wednesday morning.
The amount of property tax rate increases varies, but for homeowners the rate would rise 10 percent from the current $2.50 to $2.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. This fiscal year, the homeowners category is expected to generate nearly $17.4 million. Under the council's proposed rate, homeowners overall would pay nearly $19.1 million.
The increased revenue raised would go in part to pay unfunded liabilities for pensions for county retirees and for the employee health fund, council members have said.
Wailuku resident and certified public accountant Doug Levin testifies during a public hearing Wednesday morning on the council’s proposed property tax rates. Levin said he was in support of the new rates that will see increases across the board.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Prior to the council approving the resolution Wednesday morning, nine people testified. They were roughly split in favor of or against the proposed rate increases.
"I support the changes you are making," said Wailuku resident Doug Levin, a certified public accountant. He added that property values have decreased, but costs of county services have increased.
Levin said that he sympathized with those who have a hard time paying their taxes.
"This is a very difficult time economically for some payers," Levin said, adding that these people should apply for the circuit breaker tax credit.
He told council members that perhaps they could extend the circuit breaker deadline to June 30, after the new rates are set. Currently, applications are accepted Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 to try to qualify for the next fiscal year.
But Maui County Veterans Council President Paul Laub said that he was concerned about fellow veterans who are disabled and who cannot pay their taxes as well as the "kupuna," or elders, who live on fixed incomes but still help their children and grandchildren with housing and other support.
Laub said that he would like veterans who are deemed 100 percent disabled to pay no taxes. He also disliked the hike in the property tax rates.
"Some (retirees, kupuna) I know are literally eating crackers and jam for dinner. What is . . . 100 bucks (to the county)?"
The residential rate would go from $5.55 to $5.75; time share from $15 to $15.50; apartment from $5.50 to $6.20; commercial from $6.25 to $6.90; industrial from $7 to $7.10; agricultural from $5.80 to $6; conservation from $5.60 to $6.20; hotel/resort from $9 to $9.15; and commercial residential from $4.20 to $4.50. All amounts are per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The proposed tax rates in the resolution are attached to the council's proposed budget, which is scheduled for first reading at 10 today in the Council Chambers. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 9 a.m.
After hearing another testifier's concerns about disabled veterans having to pay $100 more in minimum taxes, Council Member Mike White said that it would be possible to keep the minimum tax rate the same for those vets with a simple change in the county ordinance.
In support of approving the resolution with the new rates, White said that property taxes in the homeowners category would increase by about 10 percent over last year, but overall homeowners valuations have decreased by about 10 percent.
He added that some testifiers would still be paying less in property taxes than they have paid on average over the past 10 years. In some cases, some people's payments would actually be 40 percent less than their 10-year average, he said.
Tom Croly, who was testifying on behalf of himself and the Maui Vacation Rental Association, said that he was satisfied with the proposed rates even though he would see about a $1,000 increase personally with the tax hike and proposed increase in water rates for his two properties.
"I think the rates you proposed are fair and whole," he told council members.
He added that the $1,000 increase for him is "a lot of money," but he is willing to pay it to support county services.
Pat Borge, who has been critical of bed-and-breakfast and vacation rental businesses, said those businesses should take more of the tax burden than regular residents. Guests of the bed-and-breakfast operations and vacation rentals also use county services and infrastructure.
"They are like miniature hotels," he said. "I feel those people should carry the load. Not the vets and the local people.
"You tax everyone fair. Those people are doing business."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.