Kauai uproots gentlemanBy Anthony Sommer
farm tax breaks
LIHUE -- The Kauai County Council has passed unanimously a bill that will raise property taxes on "gentleman farms" by 1,000 percent or more.
Mayor Maryanne Kusaka is expected to sign the measure before she leaves for Japan on Sunday.
Council Chairman Ron Kouchi called the measure "one of the most important bills that I have seen in 17 years on the Council." Kouchi and Councilman Randall Valenciano were the only two members who voted yes on similar measures in 1994 and the only two members of that council still in office.
The measure requires landowners who are claiming lower tax rates because they are a farm to prove they are legitimately farming the land if there isn't visible evidence of farming activity.
It is aimed at owners of rural estates whose land is taxed as pasture at a rate of $78 an acre.
Their land now will be taxed as residential property at market value. The tax on land valued at $100,000 is $543.
County Assessor Steve Hunt estimated annual tax revenues will increase by about $1.2 million.
Kauai is the first county to remove tax breaks for gentleman farmers and Hunt said other counties are likely to follow.
The effort to change the tax structure failed six years ago in the face of massive protests from the island's legitimate farmers.
This time around, Hunt worked with groups of farmers to address their concerns.