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Task force would weigh property tax increase


Stephens Media

Just a few weeks after Mayor Billy Kenoi warned County Council members he was considering a property tax increase, the council will vote on forming a task force to consider the county’s real property tax rates and rules.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille introduced the resolution to form the task force in December. Council members postponed making a decision until this month to allow Wille to work with county administrators to select task force members. The council’s Finance Committee will take the measure back up during its meeting 1 p.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Two council members — Hilo’s Dennis Onishi and Hamakua’s Valerie Poindexter — along with four administration members — Finance Director Nancy Crawford, Real Property Tax Administrator Stanley Sitko, Real Property Tax Administrator Lisa Nahoopii and Deputy Corporation Counsel Ryan Kanakaole — and three members of the public — Jeanne Sunderland, Bob Price and Stewart Hussey — will comprise the panel. Wille said the group will report regularly to the council and their term will expire with the current council at the end of 2014.

Price is a former county assessor here and on the mainland. Hussey is an appraiser and Sunderland is an accountant who has worked with nonprofits and other organizations.

The measure is even more relevant now than December, since Kenoi announced the possibility of a property tax hike earlier this month, Wille said.

Although some people might wonder whether it would be better to get the task force’s input before a tax increase is imposed, Wille said she can see the justification for the rate request.

“The proposal he gave us so far is cutting a lot of critical needs,” she said.

Wille is so concerned about the county’s finances, particularly those of the Fire Department, that she also introduced a resolution calling for an extra $500,000 to be added to that department’s budget. The Finance Committee waived that measure directly the full council, which is scheduled to hear it Wednesday morning in Kona.

The Finance Committee will also discuss Kenoi’s full budget proposal. Committee hearings begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Council convenes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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