Hawaii County

Big Isle hearing
finds supporters of
property tax hike

A Puna resident says that the
county should cut spending instead

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> A former business owner and a Republican, Big Island resident John Ray surprised himself by the stance he was taking.

"I can't believe I'm here to testify in favor of raising my taxes," Ray said at a public hearing last night.

Ray was not alone in supporting higher property taxes. Fewer than a dozen people spoke to the Hawaii County Council last night on a proposed property tax increase, but the majority of them favored the increase requested by Mayor Harry Kim to balance the county budget.

The mayor's proposal deals with the rate property owners would pay for each $1,000 of the value of their property. Most property owners pay $8.50 per $1,000 for buildings and $10 per $1,000 for land. Kim proposed a uniform rate of $9.85.

The major exception would be the "homeowners" rate for owner-occupied homes, now $4.45 for buildings and land. Kim wants that raised to $5.55, well below the rates for other categories.

A former County Council member, Ray said the county, including himself, had been negligent in leaving the homeowner rate so low.

Ray said he recently asked 35 people in Waimea what they thought about the homeowner rate. Thirty said it was too low.

Puna resident Jon Olson, also in favor of the increase, said: "Government costs money. That's the long and short of it." When asked if he would accept an even greater increase than what Kim called for, Olson said, "That's what's going to be required."

But another Puna resident, Glenna Jacobs, spoke against an increase, saying the county should "cut down on office help" to save money.

Her husband Don told the Council, "When it comes election time, you guys are going to be dead."

Another hearing is set for 6 p.m. today at the Royal Kona Resort. Turnout there may be higher because the local newspaper, West Hawaii Today, has published a series of editorials against the tax increase.

County of Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


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