(BIVN) – Looking for ways to address a possible budget shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the County of Hawaiʻi is looking to increase taxes on certain, multi-million dollar residential properties on the Big Island.
The Hawaiʻi County Council on Wednesday voted to advance Bill 169 to the next reading. The bill creates two tiers for residential class properties, and authorizes the council to set property tax rates for each tier. According to the agenda item, Bill 169:
Establishes two tiers of tax rates for properties classified as Residential; Residential Tier One Property and Residential Tier Two Property. Residential Tier Two property tax rates would apply to properties in the Residential class with an assessed value of $2 million or more that are not receiving a home exemption, or properties in the Residential class that are vacant land with an assessed value of 2 million or more.
The council meeting was also the first opportunity for members of the public to testify in person at a meeting since the COIVD-19 pandemic forced a statewide shutdown. Many took advantage to voice their disapproval of the tax proposal.
“When I looked over the people who testified today,” said council chair Aaron Chung, “a lot of them were in the real estate business. So they have vested interests. Their points of view, of course, are very very important. They make good points. The people who are being affected by this are not using up our resources here, whether it be healthcare or others. They’re only here for about a month, and at the same time they’re paying a huge amount of taxes and they’re also employing our workforce.”
“But at the same time,” Chung continued, “I think to myself, $2 million dollar second home. You know, our local community, we don’t even have a $2 million dollar first home, or $500,000 first home.”
“COVID has hastened the necessity for something like this,” Chung said. “Now, we have the CARES Act that’s going through the legislature and it’s very possible that we may be able to balance our budget this year, but things are so fluid that it’s very difficult to tell at this this point. I think this is a handy tool.”
Still, Chung said he “kind of jerked” when he saw the $3.50 increase on this second tier that was proposed by the administration.
“Even if this measure passes today, I cannot guarantee that they’ll have my support on a $3.50 cent rate increase for that second tier,” Chung said.
The council advanced Bill 169 with 8 of 9 votes in favor. Only Kohala councilman Tim Richard voted no.