Letters for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

• Tax reform red flags

• Once given, now taken

• Behold the power

Tax reform red flags

When our mayor says he is reforming taxes (“Property tax reform bill proposed,” A1, June 2) a lot of red flags should go up.

Our citizens need to recognize that lurking in the proposals he has made is a provision that endows our County Council with the power to set our property taxes without any barriers or limits. In other taxes, we know in advance what our tax liability will be. But under the mayor’s proposed bill our property taxes can be set by the council without any restrictions and at their total discretion.

Up to now taxpayers who own and occupy their homes were able to rely on the stability of the 2 percent cap to control any annual increase in their tax bill. And, remember that this cap only came after 18,000 tax payers were disenfranchised voting for the ‘Ohana Kaua‘i Charter Amendment which gave a better tax break to the people than the council’s 2 percent did.

So now the mayor wants to get rid of the one safety net we have in place that guards against the consequences of soaring government spending and give the council the right to set our taxes wherever they want. The unappropriated surplus has ballooned to over $19 million by our government over-taxing the citizens, so let us not allow this proposal to become law.

When this proposal in the form of a bill gets on the council agenda, the people must come to the meeting and let your representatives know that you will not tolerate this outrageous measure. Enough is enough.

Glenn Mickens


Once given, now taken

The administration’s proposal to “simplify” the property tax along with eliminating the 2 percent cap for owner/occupants is great marketing but will result in more, not less taxes for most property owners.

As Yogi Berra once quipped, “It’s deja vu all over again.” If you will recall the not so distant past, a large majority of our voting citizens wanted a roll back and cap on property taxes. The county couldn’t stomach that and sued itself to prevent implementing the will of the voters. The Hawaii Supreme Court found the word county means the government and not the people as clearly stated in our charter and that the citizens have no say whatsoever in the method or rates of taxation. “My goodness, that would be complete chaos,” said the attorney arguing the county’s claim.

To mollify the citizens of this farce, the county enacted similiar legislation granting some relief to owner occupants. Now, the hand that giveth wishes to take away.

The citizens, of course, should have anticipated such a move. After all, the county only had a $2 million surplus this year. And rather than more relief, they just had to spend it on 20 new positions and various other nonessentials. Well, sadly that’s what governments do: perpetuate themselves and spend, spend, spend.

The fair market value system of taxing property is in itself unfair. Why should anyone pay an ever-increasing amount of tax on an asset because someone next door happened to pay a million dollars for his or her property? This never made any sense to me. Most assets, stocks, for example, are taxed at fair market value only when sold. That’s really the only time the fair market value can be precisely determined. If the county wants more money from struggling taxpayers and to really simplify, just get your extra money when the homeowners do, at the close of escrow. Othewise rising values of homes are not an asset but a liability. The 300K exemption will be about as helpful to the average citizen, especially seniors and those on fixed incomes, as the stimulus rebate and the KIUC rebates.

Simplification is usually a good thing. Eliminating the 2 percent cap is not. Let your legislators know what you think before it’s too late.

Michael Wells


Behold the power

Everyone seems to finally be in an uproar over KIUC’s high rates. I can remember back before it was a co-op and there was Kauai Electric and everything was just fine. The things that KIUC promised the “members” were:

• Lower electricity costs

• Better service

• A voice in how it was run

As I look back over the years they have been in existance, it seems to me that none of those promises have come true. The people (members) seem to have little or no voice, except to vote in the elections. If you are apathetic about how things are going with regards to KIUC, you might feel that it is a waste of your time and you may not even trust their election system. Certainly, as evidenced by their recent move to reinstall past board members to fill two vacancies, instead of heeding the choice of the “members” who voted for other prominent candidates with progressive ideas, you wouldn’t feel like you have much of a voice.

I haven’t needed service lately, but I remember a few years back when a tree branch created a short circuit after hitting our power line and it took them a week to get to our house to fix it. In the interim, we had limited power that caused our TV to blow up and they said they weren’t responsible for that.

When it comes to the “lower rates” part of the improvements that they promised us when they were trying to garner support for the change to a co-op, well, it has turned out to be just the opposite. Three years ago, when I pulled out a pile of KIUC billing statements and did the math, I noticed that my bill had doubled in one year, whereas my consumption had remained the same. If you call KIUC’s business office and ask any questions about the hidden fees such as the customer charge, they have a very well-rehearsed response that leaves you frustrated. They actually charge for billing you. In other words, it costs you for them to take your money. Now I don’t know if that is from the person that rides around in that truck and points their sensor at your meter and then drives away. But it seems to me, since it is all done with a computer, including the printing of the billing statements, that at $8 to $10 per customer, if that employee can point their sensor at just one meter per minute, they are earning between $480 and $600 per hour for the co-op.

I haven’t been happy with the transition from Kauai Electric to KIUC, but since we don’t have any alternative choice when it comes to getting our electricity, I guess they have us over a barrel (of oil). Do they really have all that power over us and there’s nothing we can do about it?

Jack Custer



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