The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Maui County Council on Oct. 20, 2023.
October 20, 2023
Maui County Council Chamber
To: Maui County Council
Alice Lee, Chair
Yuki Lei K. Sugimura, Vice Chair
From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Joe Kent, Executive Vice President
RE: Bill 95 (2023) — Relating to the August 2023 Fires Disaster Exemption
Dear Chair and Committee Members:
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on Bill 95 (2023), which would exempt from the property tax all residential real property in Lahaina and other residential real property that was damaged or destroyed by the fires in Kihei and Upcountry.
It would also provide tax relief to hotel and short-term rental owners who use their properties to provide shelter to residents displaced by the fires. These exemptions and relief programs would cover the tax years 2024 and 2025.
Grassroot believes providing property tax relief to residents affected by the wildfires is a good way to help residents recover.
Without tax relief, residents whose houses were destroyed and who do not have sources of income could lose their homes to county foreclosure. Instead, they should be allowed time to complete their insurance claims and assess whether they can or want to rebuild before being threatened with property tax payments.
Grassroot welcomes this bill, and would like to suggest an amendment: The bill should also extend to Lahaina’s commercial, industrial, agricultural and other properties in the Lahaina tax map zone. Owners of these properties also risk losing their lands to foreclosure as they wait to rebuild. This concern might be much greater because the tax rates on businesses tend to be higher than on residences.
Overall, we believe this measure would be beneficial to those affected by the tragic fires.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Executive Vice President
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii