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Aid property owners 85 and up through Bill 120 tax measure

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Hawaii County Council on Feb. 21, 2024.
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Feb. 21, 2024, 9 a.m.
Hawaii County Building

To: Hawaii County Council
      Heather Kimball, Chair
      Holeka Goro Inaba, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Jonathan Helton, Policy researcher

COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF BILL 120 — RELATING TO A REAL PROPERTY TAX STABILIZATION PROGRAM

Aloha Chair Kimball, Vice-Chair Inaba and Councilmembers,

The Grassroot Institute would like to offer its comments supporting Bill 120, Draft 2, which would cap the property tax bills of homeowners 85 years old and older, provided their homes are worth $2 million or less.

Under the new “stabilization program,” any homeowner 85 or older could join and have their tax bill capped at the amount it was the year before they enrolled. For example, a qualifying couple paying $1,800 a year in property taxes would not see that amount increase due to higher rates or assessments resulting from changes in the real estate market. It would go up only if they remodeled or improved their home or became ineligible for a homeowner exemption. Meanwhile, their tax bill could also decrease. Lower tax rates, higher homeowner exemption values and lower property assessments could all lower their tax bill without removing them from the program.

Because many older homeowners live on fixed incomes, higher property taxes can negatively affect their daily lives by forcing them to forgo groceries, utilities or medications. At little cost to the County, this bill would provide older homeowners more protection against property tax increases than any program currently existing anywhere in the state.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Jonathan Helton
Policy researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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