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Bill 120: Stabilization program would cap property tax for elderly

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Hawaii County Finance Committee on Feb. 6, 2024.
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Feb. 6, 2024, 2 p.m.
Hawaii County Building

To: Hawaii County Council Finance Committee.
      Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder, Chair
      Cindy Evans, 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 Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder, Vice-Chair Evans and Committee members,

The Grassroot Institute would like to offer its comments supporting Bill 120, which would cap the property tax bills of homeowners 85 years old and older.

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 higher assessments resulting from natural changes in the real estate market. Their tax bill could then increase 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. This bill would provide older homeowners more protection against property tax increases than any 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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