LIHUE >> The Kauai County Council yesterday tentatively rolled back taxes on all classes of property by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and then doubled the tax cut for residential taxpayers.
Kauai County Council
approves tax cut for all
classes of property
By Anthony Sommer
The tax cut went against a recommendation earlier this week from Mayor Maryanne Kusaka that tax cuts should be avoided because of major increases in employee pay and benefits already approved for the next two years.
For the average homeowner with land valued at $100,000 and a house valued at $80,000, annual property taxes will drop by $38.08, to $766.20 from the current $804.20 -- a 4.7 percent reduction.
In the past two years, Kusaka requested and the Council approved measures that increased the property tax by 25.8 percent, the county fuel tax by 33.3 percent and the county weight tax on passenger vehicles, including light trucks, by 66.7 percent.
There was little protest to the increases in either year, and taxes were not an issue in any campaign for Kauai County Council last year.
Kusaka said the past tax increases were necessary because of declining property valuations. Shortly after they were approved, a real estate boom began on Kauai that sent prices, and valuations, soaring.
In the coming year, valuations on average are expected to continue to climb by an estimated 7.3 percent.
Rather than recommending tax cuts in her budget request for fiscal 2002, Kusaka has asked the Council for a budget increase of 19.6 percent.
If the tax cuts that won preliminary Council approval yesterday go into effect, they will pare $691,274 from county tax revenues.
On Thursday the Council voted to increase its annual subsidy to the Wailua Golf Course to $536,000 from the current $200,000.
When the tax cut and the golf course subsidy are combined, the result is $1.1 million less revenue to fund next year's budget.
Several Council members said the spending cuts needed to account for the decreased income could come from the $2 million Kusaka has asked to hire consultants to research a possible county purchase of Kauai Electric Co.
Councilman Bryan Baptiste, who agreed with the administration that taxes should not be cut because of $2.5 million in employee salary increases in the coming year and another $45 million in 2003, cautioned the tax cuts may end up being temporary.
"It's going to be a bit strange next year to raise it back or raise it even higher than it was," Baptiste said.
The Council still must set a public hearing date and take a formal vote on the tax cut, which is a different procedure from previous years. In the past, approval at meetings like yesterday's, at which there was only a vague agenda, constituted final votes on budget matters.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Councilman Gary Hooser complained that the public was not being given adequate notice that the Council was planning to vote on a major issue. The county attorney's office advised the Council to follow the informal meeting with a public hearing and roll call vote.
At yesterday's meeting only two members of the public were present.