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Hawaiʻi County mayor considers lowering property tax rates amid boost in revenue

Mitch Roth state of the county
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth
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Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth gives his 2022 State of the County address.

Hawai’i County Mayor Mitch Roth has proposed rolling back most property taxes for the coming fiscal year.

With increased grant revenues and higher property tax values, Hawai’i County has reported a boost in revenue of an estimated $89 million increase between the first and final budget proposals.

“We have seen our residents and on-island businesses struggle through the pandemic, and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure they bounce back stronger than ever,” Roth said in the budget message. “Our communities have been more resilient because of the work of our small businesses, who never once wavered, and providing them a small reduction in real property tax in the coming fiscal year is the least we can do to help them recover cost from a rough two years.”

County of Hawai’i Public Information Officer Cyrus Johnasen said high property assessments have burdened home and business owners.

“Property valuations have gone up so much in the past two years because of the pandemic,” Johnasen told HPR. “We really saw that it was a seller's market, and because of that, everything was so competitive, that the rates on all these different properties went up. So much so that tied to our current rates, it was astronomical.”

Most property tax classes will see between a decrease of 5 to 60 cents per $1,000-estimate. The biggest decrease will come to the apartment class, which will be proposed to match the residential rate of $11.10.

The residential rate, which primarily consists of second homes, investor-owned properties and short-term vacation rentals, will not see a proposed change.

Johnasen said that readjusting revenue streams will make this tax proposal work in the long run.

“I think, looking forward, there's gonna be a lot more opportunities for us to bring in critical grant dollars, federal dollars from the federal pipeline,” he said.

Within the county’s proposed $780 million budget, there are several new hires for grant writers.

“Our focus is trying to find alternative revenue sources for our county so that we're not putting the financial burdens on our taxpayers on our local community,” Johnasen said.

Johnasen also highlighted affordable housing initiatives, sustainability and plans for homelessness that will benefit from the increased revenues.

The budget and tax rate are subject to county council approval. Fiscal year 2023 begins July 1.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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