Flurry of property tax appeals expected
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
At least 400 more homeowners than last year have appealed the city's property value assessments and at least 2,000 more appeals are likely to be processed after today's deadline, a city official said.
As of Friday, 1,800 appeals have been registered and the bulk of the challenges are expected to arrive in the mail this week, said Gary Kurokawa, administrator of the city's Real Property Assessment Division.
Those who appeal must provide a reason for the challenge based on the grounds listed on the form that was included in the mid-December mailing sent to 273,000 property owners.
Kurokawa said most people say that the city's assessment goes more than 10 percent over the market value of the property. He urges those appealing to remember to state what they believe the value should be and submit a signed check for $25.
And he reminds owners that being unhappy with the estimated tax amount isn't grounds for appeal.
"People just send in complaining," Kurokawa said. "That is not valid grounds for the appeal."
Today is the deadline for appeals because Jan. 15 fell on a Sunday followed by yesterday's Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
Hawai'i Kai resident Richard Baker, who lives in the Koko Kai area, is among those who filed an appeal. Baker said he is challenging the assessment even though he's frustrated that his 2003 appeal still hasn't been decided by the city.
He said his assessment this year at $1,487,100 is "only 29 percent" above last year's but he thinks the system is flawed by relying on a computer that looks at sales of comparable homes.
Baker said the main problem with the city's assessment system since 2003 is the updated and automated computer system.
"It is based on sales in the same neighborhood in the past year," he said. "For districts where each house was built individually, that is simply an inaccurate standard to apply."
He is telling the city that his house is worth $1,290,000.
Without having a city inspector look at homes, Baker said, he thinks the system is unfair because it doesn't account for upgrades, new amenities and other conditions.
"In the meantime, you pay the higher rate and wait," he said.
Kailua resident Carol Kaneshiro, who talked about her frustration with the $2 million-plus assessment on a family property on Sunset Beach in Sunday's Advertiser, said she won't bother this year.
"I just feel that with the method they use now — no sense," Kaneshiro said. "I just feel that I don't have the ability to convince them that it's not worth that much."
Instead, Kaneshiro said she's counting on elected officials —the City Council and the mayor — to come up with a solution that won't punish longtime property owners like herself.
"I'm still hoping," she said.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.