Relief options under review

LIHUE — Tom LaCour and his wife Candi say they can no longer afford to live in their own home.

Over the past two years, the Hanalei couple said they have seen their real property taxes soar from $17,095 in 2012 to $33,902 this year, a 98 percent increase.

Since the couple operate a 950-square-foot, two-bedroom vacation rental on their property, Tom LaCour said changes in county tax laws approved over the last two years moved them from the county’s residential tax class and into the vacation rental class, which is now taxed at $8.85 per $1,000 in assessed valuation.

With few options left, Tom LaCour said their beachfront home is now up for sale. 

“Mr. Chairman and councilmembers, I’m here to ask for relief,” LaCour told the Kauai County Council on Wednesday. 

The LaCours were not alone.

During the public hearing on five real property tax bills before the Kauai County Council, all six people who testified said the seven-member board should take a second look at current laws to find relief for some property owners who saw noticeable increases on their tax bills this year. 

A consensus on what solutions may work, however, were not so clear.

Hanalei resident Barbara Smith, who has lived on Kauai with her husband for more than 18 years, said she supports reinstating the permanent home use credit, which was repealed last year and capped future real property tax increases on owner-occupied homes, with the proper exemptions, at 2 percent. 

“Whatever is reasonable or equitable would be helpful and I think this bill that we’re speaking on now is a beginning, but I don’t think we should have ever gotten to that point — this is way out of bounds,” Smith said. 

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, however, said reverting back to the permanent home use credit would have negative consequences on the 5,651 people in the county’s homestead tax class who received decreases on their real property tax bills this year. Another 5,293 people in the same tax class received increases, according to county tax documents.

“It’s also easy to favor stability when your taxes are going down and not going up,” Yukimura said.

The County Council’s Finance Committee will take up the possible relief options beginning at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 1 in the Historic County Building Council Chambers. If it is approved there, it could be taken up by the County Council as early as the following week.

Residents said the tax relief should be a high priority for councilmembers. Kalaheo resident Stanley Dotario Sr. said he will turn to the ballot box in November. 

“You guys run this county like I would run my sports team. I just love voting in the general election, because I have my right to vote, and if I don’t like how you guys are running the team, I vote for somebody else,” Dotario said.

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