WAILUKU – Maui County Council members heard from farmers this week asking them to take more time before making changes to the county’s agricultural property tax laws.
The council Budget and Finance Committee met Tuesday to discuss a proposal that would carve out the land under a home on agricultural property and require it to be taxed in the same way as any other residential lot. Council members supporting the measure said it would make the property tax system more fair and equal for all residents.
But many farmers said they were concerned about any changes that would likely increase what they pay in property taxes.
“We have a tax equity issue,” said Darren Strand, president of the Maui County Farm Bureau and Haliimaile Pineapple Co. “As a business operator, that’s not my issue. My issue is, any increase in taxes is going to hurt my bottom line.”
He echoed others in calling for more review.
“There just hasn’t been enough time for us to process (this) and really get the information out,” he said.
Council members agreed, deciding to defer discussion of the issue and schedule nighttime meetings in the community before taking action.
“There’s a lot of concern out there, and I’d like to take a little extra time to have people get their questions answered,” said Council Member Mike White, who introduced the legislation and has spearheaded discussion of disparities in the agricultural property tax system.
Under White’s proposal, the county would tax the “house lot” on agricultural property based on its fair market value, as if it were a stand-alone lot.
That would be a significant change from the current system, in which the county estimates the value of the house lot only as a percentage of what the entire property is worth.
The change would likely increase property taxes on a number of agricultural house lots, which under the current system often pay less in taxes than lots of the same size in residential areas.
“It gets back to a fairness issue,” White said. Continue reading