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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Maui may reduce property taxes

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — Property taxes in Maui County would be rolled back to 1999 levels under a proposal unveiled yesterday by the County Council.

Council members deliberating on the county's fiscal year 2002 budget indicated support for the rollback, which would amount to a 6 percent across-the-board reduction in real property taxes. That's three times the reduction proposed by Mayor James "Kimo'' Apana last month.

Under the council's proposal, a property owner with a $250,000 house would save $42 based on present values, compared with a $16 savings under the mayor's version.

It was estimated that the 6 percent rollback would reduce property tax revenues by $3 million to $4 million.

Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama justified the deeper cut by saying the council has the responsibility to reduce property taxes in the face of rising property values.

Most of the council members indicated support for bigger tax relief, but one member said she is not so sure.

Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson of West Maui said many constituents have expressed a concern regarding "quality-of-life issues,'' such as infrastructure and open space, and wouldn't mind paying the higher taxes if they are allocated to address those issues.

"They want us to re-invest in the community,'' Johnson said.

But Hokama said trying to define quality of life is hard to do.

"There are nine different quality-of-lifes here,'' he said, referring to the nine council members. "Maybe there are 120,000 different views of quality of life in this county.''

Apana last month proposed a $300 million budget that contains a significant decrease in community center fees, the creation of several positions to oversee county initiatives, and millions of dollars in spending for capital improvements, including more than $4 million to address traffic problems on Maui.

Apana said a rosy economic outlook prompts significant new spending that would help the county catch up after a decade of deferred maintenance and accomplish projects that previously were put on hold because of cost.

But Hokama and other members said they want to take a more conservative approach to spending, especially if Maui's tourism industry is stricken by the decline in the global economy.

Council members Charmaine Tavares and Alan Arakawa both said the budget has fat that can be trimmed, and Hokama and Tavares said there are different ways to finance the projects the mayor wants to pursue.

Budget deliberations will continue as the council works to meet a May 29 deadline for final approval of the fiscal 2002 budget.