Council to take up property tax, smoking issues

The Kaua’i County Council has been asked by council chair Ron Kouchi to consider a bill to freeze assessments at 2002 levels for single-family residential, homestead and agricultural classes to help residents keep property tax bills in check.

The council is expected to take up the matter, in a form of a letter from Kouchi to the council, at a 1 p.m. meeting at the historic County Building at 1 p.m. Thursday.

In light of a “recent trend of major assessment increases” for the three tax rate classes and “numerous testimonies received, this bill will provide much-needed future relief for our residents,” Kouchi wrote in the letter.

Kouchi noted the current property tax revenues for the classes amount to $21 million, which will be carried over in the future tax year. The single-family residential class is anticipated to generate $9.22 million, the homestead, $5.39 million and agriculture, $6.45 million.

The council also is expected to take action a bill that would prohibit smoking in the restaurants and public spaces to protect the safety of employees.

Residents and anti-smoking groups have commended councilman James Tokioka for proposing the bill, but want it amended so that smoking is banned in all restaurants regardless of size.

Tokioka, a restaurant owner, goes along with the sentiment of those favoring such a ban, but is proposing an exemption for a handful of small, Kaua’i restaurants that employ family members.

Kouchi and councilman Randal Valenciano have said they would propose for full council action an amendment that would allow for a total ban to protect workers from secondhand smoke.

At past meetings, anti-smoking groups, individuals and a state health official said continuous exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to respiratory problems, including lung cancer.

Representatives for the American Cancer Society, the Tobacco-Free Coalition, Tobacco-Free Kauai, Smoke Free Hawaii Coalition and the state Department of Health voiced support for a total smoking ban.

At a recent council meeting, Kouchi said that if the full council adopts a bill that includes the ban, amendments can be proposed in the future.

The legislation would not affect enclosed bars in restaurants.


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