Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

Kaua'i mayor plans tax relief

Associated Press

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — The constitutionality of aw county charter amendment designed to give property tax relief to homeowners is in the hands of a state judge, and Mayor Bryan Baptiste said his administration is prepared to respond to whatever the judge decides.

Voters on Nov. 2 approved the charter amendment, which rolls property taxes back to 1998 levels on owner-occupied homes effective next year, with increases of only 2 percent each year starting in 2006.

The charter amendment, the first ballot measure on Kaua'i in 20 years, was backed by an activist group called 'Ohana Kaua'i but opposed by the county administration and several council members.

Baptiste said last week he has an obligation to implement the amendment if it's upheld.

However, if Judge George Masuoka agrees with county officials that it illegally takes away the county's taxing power, Baptiste said he and the County Council will move forward with other tax relief measures.

"It is my job to make sure what we implement is legal," Baptiste said.

"The County Council and I remain committed to implementing equitable tax relief for all Kaua'i citizens," he added. "I believe that the mandate of the people was for tax relief, which we all rightfully deserve."

'Ohana Kaua'i said that county spending and property tax collections both have increased 50 percent over the six years since Kaua'i's real estate boom began.

The spiraling assessments from fast-paced property sales have forced some longtime homeowners off their properties.

Last Monday, county officials asked Masuoka for a preliminary injunction to order Baptiste, the County Council and the county finance director to refrain from implementing the amendment until a "full judicial review" of legal issues is completed.

County attorneys had filed a lawsuit before the election, on Oct. 25, challenging the constitutionality of the amendment.

Masuoka denied a motion by 'Ohana Kaua'i to dismiss the county's lawsuit, and ruled that the group's leaders and their attorney lack standing as intervenors in the case.