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Tax jump alarms Kalihi residents

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    Kalihi resident Rosita Macabeo reviewed her homeowners' bill outside her porch yesterday in Kalihi. Homeowners in the area, including some who have lived there since 1948, are getting a sizable increase in their property taxes. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser). Kalihi homeowners whose properties were rezoned, saw a fourfold jump in their tax bills.
    Kalihi resident Jayme Cabais, 79, stood yesterday on the porch of the Stanley Street house that has been his lifelong home. Cabais said he did not get advance notice of the change in rate status that pushed this year's property tax bill to $10,552.40, more than quadrupling last year's $2,335.52 bill.

Kalihi homeowners whose properties were reclassified to industrial or commercial are facing a fourfold property tax jump they describe as unfair.

Jayme Cabais, 79, a lifelong resident of a Stanley Street house, said yesterday that he received no notice of the change until the end of July when he received this year’s tax bill for $10,552.40, more than quadruple last year’s $2,335.52 bill.

The retiree cannot afford $10,000 a year on a monthly $1,000 Social Security check. "I want to be able to afford to eat," he said.

City Council member Romy Cachola said his office has been flooded with complaints about the tax increase from the residential rate of $3.42 to $12.40 for industrial or commercial per $1,000 of assessed value. Cachola knows of 95 structures that were affected but suspects the number is higher.

"The Hannemann administration pulled the trigger" last year and decided to reclassify these residential homes without the Council’s knowledge, Cachola said.

He believes the problem is islandwide, likely striking other older neighborhoods that had been rezoned to industrial and commercial, often hurting the needy and seniors on fixed incomes.

While many owners did not receive notices, some got letters in December notifying them of the zoning reclassification, but the letters failed to mention any tax increase. They only learned of the major increase when they got their bills in the mail.

They were told by the city they have no recourse but to pay this year’s bills. Their only consolation is to file a form by September asking their land be reclassified as residential.

The Council passed a bill in July that would allow residential property owners to dedicate their properties to residential, allowing them to pay the lower rate.

The city said about 250 parcels were reclassified from residential to commercial or industrial.

The changes were made in response to "complaints of inequitable treatment by owners of similar properties who were already being assessed at the higher commercial or industrial class rate," said Gary Kurokawa, the city’s real property tax division administrator.

The city said letters informing property owners of the classification changes were sent Dec. 15.

The city will discuss options for owners unable to pay their tax bill by the due dates, but penalties and interest on taxes not paid by the deadline will be added.

The Council learned of the extent of the problem only after constituents complained.

Cachola and his staff canvassed the area and discovered many affected families living in a concentration of apartment buildings and single-family homes bounded by North King and Umi streets, Puuhale Road and Dillingham Boulevard. The area, once primarily residential, had been rezoned beginning in the 1970s to industrial or commercial.

"I guess they wanted to balance the budget," Cachola said. "But they cannot balance the budget on the backs of the needy."


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