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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 26, 2006

Appeals high, but likely not a record

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer


Today, the City Council Budget Committee will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. at Honolulu Hale in the second-floor committee room to consider 16 property tax relief proposals that respond to complaints about skyrocketing property assessments.

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Numbers by fiscal years

1996-97 4,453

1997-98 3,240

1998-99 1,910

1999-00 2,289

2000-01 2,576

2001-02 2,483

2002-03 4,474

2003-04 2,590

2004-05 3,837

2005-06 4,179

2006 * 5,300

*As of yesterday, tally not final

Source: Real property tax assessment division

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At least 5,300 Honolulu property owners had appealed the city's property value assessments as of yesterday the most in a decade and more are being processed, a city official said.

Gary Kurokawa, administrator of the city's Real Property Assessment Division, said that is the raw number of appeals filed. "I expect it to grow by a couple hundred," he said.

But Kurokawa predicted the total number of appeals will fall short of the record 6,200 in 1995.

Although the deadline required the appeals to be postmarked or received by Jan. 17, Kurokawa said his office is still processing those that are still trickling through.

A hot real estate market pushed property assessments through double-digit increases for most Honolulu homes over the past three years. Residents are complaining that the rising values have doubled and tripled their tax bills in recent years yet offered no real benefit to those who aren't interested in selling.

When the latest property assessment notices went out last month, many homeowners protested Mayor Mufi Hannemann's original proposal to leave property tax rates where they are, which would bring the city a $125 million windfall based on the increased values.

Since then, Hannemann has modified his proposal to offer a tax credit worth $40 million to property owners, put $20 million into a rainy-day fund and set aside $65 million for salary costs, debt service and other government expenses.

Scores of taxpayers have called to complain that they need relief from the years of tax increases. Various City Council members, the mayor and even citizens' groups have proposed ways to give taxpayers a break. Some of those proposals will be debated tomorrow.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.