County hurts residents with tax hikes, refusal to reduce spending

am so glad that TGI newspaper is bringing up the unfair property tax issues. There’s more of us out there with a tax shock. My late husband, John F. Barretto Jr., was known as the tax fighter and then was as a councilman in the mid-1980s. I truly miss him fighting now. I am a widow of 11 years. I’m 73 years old with some health issues and I have three more eye surgeries set up for this year. I have a small Social Security and basically live on a fixed income with two mortgages on my property. We had no savings or IRAs, etc. My property taxes have gone up three times higher than two years ago. It’s not as much as Mr. Lindsey or Mr. Haraguchi, but it still hurts and is hard to come by when it’s not in my annual “budget.”

Unlike the county, I have a budget to stick to because I cannot find money elsewhere. I do have three rental houses and I will probably have to raise their rents to meet this unfair increase. I have already budgeted the November upcoming insurances for the four houses. My three rental houses have always had affordable rents because we live on this noisy, noisy Kawaihau Road and there’s a noisy bus stop outside our houses and we don’t have beautiful views. It’s not an ideal location but the property and houses are well-kept with very high maintenance and repair bills and utilities and free limited laundry service. But it is home to all of us.

I have to pay the county fees for trash collection of $288 annually and county sewage fees have raised private cesspool pumping fees to $350 a load and has caused one increase of rent last year. 

Now, it looks like another rent increase is coming up this year. We were just notified by the water department that our rates are going up as of July. Some of my tenants have been on HUD, veterans, some disabled, others just have normal paying jobs and some have been in between jobs or collecting unemployment. They are not highly paid employees. It looks to me like the County of Kauai may be contributing to the homeless problem if this keeps up and tenants cannot afford their rents. I have renters here with me for as long as 15 years. I think that the county needs a financial adviser to stop their overspending foolishly and to tighten their belts like we have to.

There is also an inequitable exemption that no one has mentioned and that I was denied again this year. It is called the homeowner’s low-income exemption that I have filed for every year and have received it each year since it started because my adjusted gross income was low and I met that requirement. Well, some financial wizard figured out that they could lower that AGI and cause some of us to drop out and pay more taxes. When that didn’t work, they took away the adjusted gross income for 2011 and put down only the full gross figure which went down from $60,200 to $56,200. That means that whatever legal deductible expenses that you had for maintenance and repairs were not counted. So thereby, I was over the limit and denied that exemption every year since then. They don’t notify you of the changes on the gross income limits except that they say it is posted in January of each year online and in their office. The IRS and the Hawaii State Tax Collector use the adjusted gross income to figure out our annual personal income taxes that we owe. 

These tax collectors say that I have not made enough money to live on and I don’t have to pay personal income taxes and in fact, the Hawaii State Tax Department refunds me $85. 

Come on, Kauai County government — wake up and smell the coffee or the plumerias! We, the ordinary citizens, are hurting financially!


Kathleen (Kathy) Barretto is a resident of Kapaa.


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