Property taxes now linked to city budget
The law forces accountability, one councilmember says
The City Council can now tie changes in property tax rates to the needs of the city budget, under a bill that became law yesterday without Mayor Mufi Hannemann's signature.
If the budget is trimmed, supporters say, Bill 12 allows the property tax rate to be dropped. But if the budget is higher than the existing property tax rate, now set at $3.75 per $1,000 in valuation, the property taxes would have to be increased to pay for the extra spending.
"If we want to expand services, we have to explain to the public why we need more," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, Budget Committee chairwoman.
"It will make us more accountable," she said.
She said the Council will use Bill 12 to set the new property tax rates, and that will affect how much taxpayers will send to the city when they get their August bills.
"I think it (the property tax rate) will be a little lower. They may not have to pay the large bill they thought they would have to pay. We are going to try to lower the tax rate," Kobayashi said.
The bill was returned to the Council without Hannemann's signature because the mayor said he did not entirely agree with it.
"Our feeling is the bill presents a number of technical challenges that preclude me from signing it into law," he said in a news release. "However, I commend the Council for its efforts to provide the public with a degree of transparency and accountability on the cost of core government operations and services."
He said since the Council is determined to lower property tax rates, they should cut the rate homeowners pay to $3.59 from $3.75 per $1,000 in assessed value. Hannemann also said the Council could lower the property tax rate on agricultural land.
However, he warned that the Council would have to work with his administration to adjust both the city budget and the property tax rate.
For instance, Hannemann said, he wants to include more money for recycling.
"The Council has to work with the administration with the clear understanding that there are funds in the budget to expand the recycling program," Hannemann said.
He also had a warning for the Council as it begins work on the city's budget. "Be very careful in lowering the rate," Hannemann said.
Also yesterday, Hannemann did sign into law a bill requiring the city to start a curbside recycling program. By July 2007 the city must have a program to collect two types of waste from among glass containers, newspapers, plastic containers, green waste and food waste.