Aloha, You may have seen that we passed Kupuna Tax Relief this week in Council.
Who it helps? Those between 65 years old and 70 years old would get a $90,000 exemption, a new category. Those 70 years old to 75 years old would get a $105,000 exemption, compared to the current $100,000. And those 75 years and older would get $110,000 of their property value exempted.
“I do like it because its broad reaching but it’s also mindful of trying to strike that balance in there,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. “We do need to give some reprieve.”
The bill would cost just $1.2 million annually in a budget that’s now set at $785.9 million, which is $175.8 million, or 28.8% , higher than the current year.
Steve Hunt, former deputy director of the Finance Department who’s now the internal control manager, said increasing exemptions for lower-value property is a less regressive way to provide tax relief to those who most need it.
“Rate relief is regressive,” Hunt said. “Increased exemptions for those that are on the lower spectrum will give the greater benefit.”
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung both supported the measure, but both questioned whether there was a way to provide kupuna discounts based on something other than strictly age.
The Real Property Tax Division (RPT) offers several exemptions; as a homeowner make sure you have filed for any exemption your qualified for to reduce your tax burden.
Visit hawaiipropertytax.com for details and more information.
See the Hawaii County Real Property Tax website for more information.
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Many have asked what is BRIDGES?
BRIDGES is a concept created by Rancher and accidental politician, Councilman Herbert "Tim" Bridges to maintain local ag production. He always thinks about agriculture, putting people, and community FIRST.
This project is building "BRIDGES" for Hawaii Island Agriculture Producers and our community by maintaining local ag production during the COVID-19 disruption.
We're strengthening local agriculture production by purchasing locally grown food & flowers that will then be donated to recognized and approved Community organizations for distribution.
Our mission is to bridge the gap's found during COVID-19 and Keep farmers farming while feeding our communities.
Mahalo to the Hawaii Farm Bureau, the Atherton Family Foundation, W.M. Keck Observatory and the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neil Foundation for their Support. We could not have done this without you!!!
More Information on BRIDGES can be found here.
Tim Richards Endorsement by Patti Cook
I support Dr. Tim Richards because he’s smart, respectful, and rooted – connected to the community and the land. A veterinarian and scientist, he understands consequences. He resists thinking in silos and has dirt under his nails – aka is a for-real rancher who deeply understands agriculture and its needs and challenges. He and his wife have live-wire 6-year-old twins who keep him ever focused on the future. He returns calls, follows up, invests time and thought in building relationships, asks hard questions, and answers them too. He is always willing to do the serious heavy lifting – whether it’s treating sick wild horses in Waip’o Valley, relocating terrified livestock in the midst of a Puna eruption, helping sustain affordable interisland barge service, exploring how to shift to “green” energy for county buses, personally opening county P&R facilities due to manpower shortages, finding $10M for long-stalled essential infrastructure such as Waikoloa intersection, helping to bring home millions from the State Legislature for emergency relief, and thinking out of the box to address solid waste in ways that are environmentally and fiscally responsible.
Dr. Tim Richards doesn’t ignore hard issues, nor does he kick the can down the road. He takes them head-on and does the hard work to find solutions. He has the intelligence, relationships, and passion to make a difference for all of us.
Dr. Tim Richard’s COVID-response project, called BRIDGES, is “classic” Dr. Tim – a significant win-win for which he hasn’t gotten much recognition. Nor is that why he did it. Here’s the scoop: When COVID hit, Dr. Tim understood the “need” was two-fold: Feeding thousands of desperate residents, and also keeping our farms and ranches alive – not forced to close for lack of cash flow. He partnered with several local foundations and the county to raise $200,000 to donate to the non-profit Farm Bureau. They use the funds to purchase and process fresh local beef, pork, and poultry, cheese, and fresh local fruit and vegetables. Farmers and ranchers receive essential compensation to sustain their struggling operations, which lost their regular income when the visitor industry shut down.
Concurrently, the fresh meat and produce effectively rescued The Food Basket, which was slammed by exploding demand for food literally in every community across the island. They especially needed protein because it’s so expensive and because COVID outbreaks on the mainland interrupted the food chain. Meat became very hard to get – and even more expensive. The Food Basket was the perfect partner for BRIDGES because it’s an experienced, fiscally prudent non-profit with food handling expertise, facilities, and equipment including trucks. They also have long-standing ties to community groups and organizations all around the island to assist with reliable distribution.
BRIDGES has become an essential contributor to the food stream that’s helping ensure that thousands of residents all around the island – from Puna to Kona, Kohala and Waimea to Ka’u – are able to take home a substantial box of food for the month ahead. It’s also keeping many farms and ranches going.
Mahalo, Patti Cook
Thank you for the questions; great way to get the communication & information out to the people!
- This article was submitted to West Hawaii Today for printing first.
- Lesley Iijima's Letter to the West Hawaii Today can be read here.
Affordable housing projects; Currently, there are six proposed projects in district 9. The largest one will bring approx. 1000 affordable units, when built, it has been waiting on a water availability determination from the state for over a year. Another smaller project slated to bring approx 25 units is also waiting on water availability. Two others in the Waikoloa area, Kamakoa Nui Multi-family unit and one other, are in the process of permitting. Aina Lea, is in litigation. The other Waikoloa project is stalled in procedural challenges concerning the Army Corps of Engineers' clearance and unexploded ordinance.
On the Agriculture, Water, Energy, A Food Nexus, I continue to work on building the support at the state and federal levels needed. That is not a project that will happen quickly nor without tremendous support from all sectors. With our current economy, the interest in food self-reliance, the interest is increasing.
Concerning the tax increase, raising taxes during an economic crisis is a feeble financial plan. We need to be fiscally minded as we go into this economic crisis. Across the nation, local governments and municipalities have reduced budgets by 15-20% on average. We only cut our budget by 7%. Even Maui County cut their budget more. The revenue projections are too optimistic (IMHO); that's why I pushed for cash management. I am still deeply concerned, and I will continue to work on this issue. The raising of taxes on a select few who could invest in our county and projects like my "Food Nexus", impacting them and alienating them is shortsighted. We have to expand the economy and doing so will give us the resources needed.
Les, I do need to correct some misinformation; I never suggested suspending mass transit. I have been a harsh critic of the mismanagement of mass transit. My intent during the budget process was to Manage the cash flow of mass transit. We had received $5 million in a federal grant to purchase buses. We could have delayed putting the additional $5million in the budget as we already ordered ten buses.
Delaying the capital investment for bus stops could have been suspended for six months until we see what our cash position is. I am an advocate for the fuel cell buses we have available to us now. Mass transit has not put them into service. If we get a new COVID..l-19 stimulus package, we can look into increasing capital investments. The CARES Act funding does not allow capital investment. Our county received approximately $80 million; it must be spent on programs related to COVID-19 by year-end. While helpful for the short term, it is not a rebuilding package.
The Herbicide ban bill, yes, I voted against it; it was an anti-agriculture bill. Had it been a bill that worked towards Reducing usage, that we could afford, I would have supported it. We all want to reduce chemicals in our environment/food supply. To be draconian and think we can eliminate all herbicide use for the county without having repercussions is Pollyanna "ish". In the fall of 2019, Ventura County did a review of possibly eliminating herbicide use for their jurisdiction. They have half the land area and twice the population. They projected it would cost them an extra $20 million a year. Our park's director estimated it would increase her budget by $14 million a year to eliminate all herbicide use. We did not even have an estimate from our Department of public works. The bill proposed to ban three herbicides that are only used by farmers, not the county. Consumers should know what products are being used on our food supply, conventional farming and organic. (Often people are surprised when we discuss Organic concerning pesticides, but as you know, copper sulfate is prevalent in organic food production and is very toxic. We need to be mindful of all products used on our food supply.)
On the new shopping center, it appears construction is moving forward. The concern of the Waikoloa Road/Paniolo Avenue intersection is well known. The shopping center was permitted long before I was in office. They are under no obligation to contribute to the intersection upgrade. I have confirmed with the developer they will be making a $100,000 payment towards the upgrade. Knowing this has been a high priority for the Waikoloa Village Association and, nothing was done for years. I was able to work with the administration and finance and secure $10 million worth of funding for addressing that intersection and the resurfacing/reconditioning Paniolo Avenue. Currently, in the planning phase. These projects typically take 18 months to two years to complete.
Working with our Department of public works and our state department of transportation, the Waikoloa Road itself has been moved up the "STIP" project list. The plan was to have that road resurfaced this year. COVID-19 has impacted many of these plans; I'm hopeful we will get this done by year-end.
Les, thank you so much for the questions!! You highlighted some of the successes and show where more work is. Thank you for your continued support.