Grassroot hails tax cut for Big Isle homes but urges relief for business owners too

Above, an aerial view of Hilo.

The County Council actually improved on a tax cut proposed by Mayor Roth, but neither version gives a break to industrial or commercial properties

The following is a news release that was issued by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on May 28, 2024.

HONOLULU, May 28, 2024 >> The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is praising the Hawaii County Council’s proposal to lower property tax rates for homeowners and owners of affordable rental properties, but also is urging that the Council lower its rates for industrial and commercial property owners.

At a public hearing tomorrow, the Council will be considering a rate cut from $6.15 to $5.75 per $1,000 of assessed value for fiscal 2025, which would save a homeowner with a $400,000 house about $100 in property taxes compared to the current rate.

This is an even greater savings than what was proposed by Hawaii Mayor Mitch Roth in an earlier draft of the proposed budget, which would have reduced the rates to $5.95 per $1,000 and saved Hawaii Island taxpayers about $2.74 million in the coming fiscal year.

In testimony submitted about the mayor’s earlier proposal, Grassroot policy researcher Jonathan Helton called it “a sound and very welcome proposal.”

In new testimony submitted for tomorrow’s hearing, Helton says Grassroot was delighted to learn that the Council has proposed to further reduce the rates, which he estimated would save Hawaii Island taxpayers about $5.48 million in the upcoming year.

Helton also urges that the Council  lower its rates for the industrial and commercial classes, noting their rates increased from $10.05 to $10.70 per $1,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, assessed values have skyrocketed since then, increasing for the commercial class by 51% and for the industrial class by 61%.

Cutting the business rates from $10.70 to $10.05, Helton says, would save industrial property owners $1.13 million and commercial property owners $1.53 million in fiscal 2025 — money that could be extremely useful for Hawaii Island companies struggling to survive the state’s high cost of living.

“With inflation and high material and labor costs plaguing businesses, the Hawaii County Council should do what they can to give entrepreneurs a bit of relief,” Helton says. “Undoing the 2018 rate increases would be a good place to start.”

The Council will hear public testimony on the property tax rates tomorrow, May 29, at 5 p.m. at the Hawaii County Building in Hilo. You can read Helton’s full written testimony here.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Helton, please call Mark Coleman at 808-386-9047 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.

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