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Tax hike, recycling good budget moves


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POSTED: Monday, June 08, 2009

Blessed with revenue from flexible and relatively modest property taxes, the city faces no budget crisis comparable to the state's woes. However, the City Council created public outrage along the Leeward Coast by proposing to delay curbside recycling in that area. The Council now has prudently looked for ways to restore plans to complete recycling islandwide in the next fiscal year.

Councilman Nestor Garcia proposed forestalling the curbside recycling from Waipahu to Waikele up the Leeward Coast—including some of his own Makakilo-to-Mililani Mauka district communities—where the final segment was planned for May 2010. Garcia and Council Chairman Todd Apo now are wisely offering ways to find the $6 million to complete the recycling project.

The cost of running the city has risen and an increase in property taxes is warranted. The budget proposed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann calls for raising the yearly tax from the current $3.29 to $3.59 per $1,000 of property value, with a reduction of the one-time tax credit from the current $100 to $75 for those actually living on their property.

That would increase the yearly tax from the current $1,722 to $1,809 for a home valued at the median sales price of $643,500, now reduced to $624,000, and from the current $674 to $736 for a condominium priced at the median of $325,000. City Council members' proposals are not far from the mayor's formula. In any case, the tax will remain much smaller than on the mainland, where property taxes pay for school systems.

Councilmen Duke Bainum and Charles Djou have proposed that the property tax rate remain at the present level, but Hannemann said that “;does not make sense at all”; and would create a “;humongous”; deficit.

Hannemann proposed an assortment of other fee increases, ranging from green fees to admission fees at Honolulu Zoo. He proposes to raise hourly parking fees next to the zoo from the current 25 cents to $1.50.

While that may reflect the reality of rates throughout Waikiki, it appears to be exorbitant. The Council is considering making the rate 75 cents an hour, which probably would not be a budget-breaker.

The mayor, the Council and, most of all, city employees can feel fortunate that differences about how to keep the city budget increases modest fall below the public radar. The attention is now directed at the furloughs scheduled for state employees and the state services that could crumble.