comscore HSTA pitches property tax, hotel surcharge to hire, retain teachers | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

HSTA pitches property tax, hotel surcharge to hire, retain teachers

The Hawaii State Teachers Association says it wants to tap into property taxes to help better fund public schools.

The teachers union has drafted a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to collect a property tax surcharge on residential investment properties and a daily surcharge on all visitor accommodations at hotels, timeshares and vacation rentals.

An amendment is needed because the state Constitution exclusively authorizes the counties to levy property taxes.

The union says the proposed surcharges together would raise an estimated $500 million a year that it wants set aside for four priorities related to hiring and retaining teachers.

“With that $500 million we think we can start solving the systemic problems that we have in Hawaii schools,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said in an interview today. “At the core of it, as long as we have a teacher shortage crisis and we don’t have a surplus of teachers, it’s going to make it very difficult to attack a lot of those other problems that are affecting education.”

The tax on residential investment properties — homes or condominiums that do not serve as a primary residence — would be tiered based on a property’s assessed value, according to companion legislation to the proposed constitutional amendment. Under the proposed rates, the annual surcharge would amount to $3,150 for an investment home valued at $700,000, and $6,500 for a property valued at $1 million.

“Our basic philosophy behind this is: It’s a way to make sure that we fund our schools, make sure that we have quality teachers in the classroom, and at the same time, going after speculators that have made affordable housing in Hawaii almost impossible,” Rosenlee said. “If you have a home and that is your one home, you will not have to pay this tax.”

The bill includes more than a dozen exemptions for investment properties, including affordable housing that’s rented for less than $1,500 a month; properties rented to low-income seniors or disabled veterans; Hawaiian homesteads; and properties used exclusively for charitable purposes.

The visitor accommodations tax, meanwhile, would tack on a $3 daily fee for transient accommodations offered for less than $150 per day. The fee would increase to $5 a day for accommodations offered for $150 or more per day.

Last legislative session the union was unsuccessful in its effort to raise the general excise tax to establish a dedicated funding stream for public schools. Rosenlee said by putting the issue to voters through a constitutional amendment, lawmakers would not be put in the position of voting for a tax increase.

Comments (51)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • What is the definition of insanity? Believing this statement from an HSTA bureaucrat.

    “With that $500 million we think we can start solving the systemic problems that we have in Hawaii schools,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said.” We think? Either you know or you do not. Come back when you actually have a solid plan to cut educational costs.

    What the HSTA President willfully refuses to understand is education already has all the money it needs. Problem is there is so much fraud, abuse, waste, featherbedding, deadwood bureaucracy, nothing ever gets done.

    So no, taxpayers are not going to trust HSTA, give them $500 million. As we have seen over and over, education in the Nei is an endless money pit. Total waste of money.

    Taxpayers may be more receptive if HSTA pushes the 401k plan for all new hires. Stopping the endless pension money pit from growing deeper.

    As for the HSTA, “Suck it up Buttercup.” Do your job and quit whining.

    • How does one cut educational cost when we don’t have enough teachers?

      I also have another question. If we have a teacher shortage, then what happened to the funds that are allocated for those vacant positions? i.e. The budget usually is for X number of teachers. If there are a number of vacancies, then where or what happens to the allocated monies?

      • Dai – Look to where I said “fraud, abuse, waste, featherbedding, deadwood bureaucracy” is where so much money goes. Way too many people sitting at desks doing nothing in the HSTA/BOE/DOE puzzle palaces. Cutting the bureaucracy by 50% would just be a start.

        Same for their money pit pension program. Start moving all new hires to the more efficient 401k program. Immune from raiding and spiking, taxpayers only fund while employee is working. They retire, no more taxpayer money.

        • We have 200,000 students in public schools in the State of Hawaii, give or take a few thousand.
          Explain what fat is. Not general technical jargon. If you ever worked in the system, better yet, I’m ready to hear your explanation.

      • Cut the overhead. There was a time when each school had a principal. Most now have assistant principals (plural), vice principals, and perhaps assistant vice principals. Cur the c-r-a-p and cut the fat.

    • Now we see the relevance of alternatives to the public school system that does not work any more. Everyone wants to send their kids to Punahou or Iolani but cannot come up with $25,000 each year for tuition. We spend over $15,000 per child for our public school system. Ditch the public school system and put a $15,000 dollar voucher in each parent’s hand for their child and see how quickly schools start to appear and the educational system improve. The Gov. Ige wants the local schools to have more power, what is more empowering with each principal controlling payroll and accounting for the cost of running the schools. Accountability to the parents and not to politicians or bureaucrats is what vouchers are really accomplish.

  • this is a bad idea for kupunas. Property taxes is just one of the things that tends to be more regressive the older you get. And tourism should not have to bear the brunt of tax increases either. Let’s not kill the golden goose.

    HSTA needs to show that it will help rather than hinder administration of schools. It has never advocated for any cost cutting initiatives.

    • HSTA has no solid, veted plan on how to spend the half a billion dollars. They just want the money for pay raises, bonus payments, special funding for nice to have items, office upgrades. In a few years they will be bask asking for more.

      Never, ever, ever, trust a BOE/DOE/HSTA bureaucrat when they tell you to give them hundreds of millions of dollars, trust them. Their fingers are crossed behind their back. They are not financial or management professionals. Just recycled bureaucrats.

  • This is getting NUTS. These Libertarded HSTA, I don’t want to pay teachers, professors that teach Liberalism in our schools. Keep politics out of your teaching curriculum

  • cut the blubber in the DOE. I bet we won’t have a teacher shortage if all those highly qualified teachers who are in District or State positions are put back in the classroom. We need a detailed public audit to uncover why we have so many qualified teachers in District and State position and not in the classroom.

    • Exactly right – We do NOT have a teacher shortage. We have plenty of teachers. The problem is that many teachers are NOT in classrooms and teaching. What they are actually doing is the big mystery.

      • problem is, many of them don’t want to go back into the classroom. Just waiting in the green pasture till retirement, LOL wonder how many qualified teachers are working at HSTA instead of being in the classroom

      • sailfish1 – Mystery? Not at all. Just following the lead other state workers watching Netflix and Hulu on state computers. Online shopping, chatting, enjoying themselves.

        Work? You have got to be kidding. As they all will tell you, work is for losers.

        • agree localguy! When my kids were doing to public school (not that long ago) many of their teachers would be absent a lot, so all they did was listen to music while the sub read her newspaper. Other times, teachers were watching sports on TV or online. The public and our kids deserve better. Kids wil not report a cruise teacher as long as they bring home a A or B.
          If the HSTA can prove to the public that every teacher in every school is teaching when the should be teaching then a raise can be discussed. Ever see a teacher at iolani or punahou watching online movies during class time?? they would get fired on the spot! but our public school teachers are protected by HSTA.

    • Or change state income tax rules to tax this benefit of not paying for parking. Think of it as having a debt forgiven. IRS considers this as taxable income.

  • Math time!

    I haven’t seen the proposal but if we assume the numbers in the article are accurate:

    Oahu has ~9,000 Residential A properties: $58.5M
    Oahu has ~260,000 Residential properties. ~120,000 of which are not owner occupied: $378M

    Net: $436.5M/ year

    Keep in mind that at current rates a $700k property pays $2450/year in property taxes.

    And the state still wants the City – Oahu taxpayers – to “have skin in the game” in exchange for extending the GET which the state steals 10% of.


  • “allow the state to collect a property tax surcharge on residential investment properties and a daily surcharge on all visitor accommodations at hotels, timeshares and vacation rentals”, nice! punish the residents, punish the visitors. DON’T COME TO HAWAII!

  • This make real good sense i that similar properties on Oahu are already taxes at the residential A rate of $6.50/$1k of assessed value. Another steal from the rich scheme……..problem is that the middle class is starting to be considered “the rich”

    The funny thing about property taxes is that if you are savvy guy/gal, buy an old house and get it classified as “historical”…then you only have to pay $300/yr in property taxes. There are 250-300 properties on island that fall into this category, most of which are assessed at over a million dollars. If you cross reference the list of historical properties listed online with the C&C property tax website a number of them are also listed as residential A, meaning that a house assessed at two million dollars in the residential A category would normally pay $12,000 in property taxes, but only pay $300 if it classified historical. I wonder how many of these historical property owners contribute heavily to the election campaigns of the mayor and city council members in order to keep the $300/yr dream alive.

    Speaking of our mayor, he too took advantage of this program for his house which is currently assessed at $2.6 million dollars. For the five years prior to being elected he only paid a total of $900 in property taxes for those five years combined. He did change his category back to non-historical just before taking office, so now he is paying the same as the rest of us….but one wonders when he leaves office in 2020, will he revert back to paying $300/yr. if the mayor came to the realization that it would be politically uncorrect to be the mayor and only pay $300/yr…..there must be something wrong with the program.

    There is a informative SA article about this at

    It is an old article from 2010, would be nice if SA would blow the dust off of it, update it and reprint it.

  • I was ALL for cutting the zoo. HNL is not a “world class” city and does NOT need a zoo.

    I would actually not be against the zoo funding proposal that passed last November to keep it afloat, to be applied to education instead.

  • The schools do need funding. Why can’t the parents of public school children donate funds to the public schools? In the private schools, the tuitions are high and the parents at private schools actually donate to the school. There are a lot of successful public school graduates, why don’t they give back to their schools.

  • People that own investment property are not dummies….they will not absorb the increase tax increases, they will just push rental prices higher, forcing higher rental prices for all and increasing homelessness like it is now. This is basic cause and effect….If the city really wanted to generate $$$, start charging parking for all park users at the Patsy Mink park.$5 per vehicle should generate a pretty substantial amount of revenue.

    • This exactly what will happen.
      Money has to come from somewhere.
      The facts are:
      1. It has to come from somewhere
      2. The general public want improvements, but not on their dime.
      3. You get what you pay for.
      Keep the status quo, dont expect or complain about the same old results.

  • Stupidest idea I’ve heard since Cladwell’s proposals of yesterday to fund rail. Add the surcharge, non-island buyers walk, real estate prices fall and property tax revenues decrease. Okay, we raise them again to offset the value decline and the cycle continues. Rents go up, home priceswill continue to fall. Vancouver RE market has collapsed since they added the non-resident surcharges. First step is cut the DOE administrative overhead. Next step is to create voluntary taxation such as a lottery where the proceeds are dedicated to education. And yes the visitors can particpate with scratoff lottery tickets. Alos tie into the multistate lottery games. Also, dedicate the pakalolo tax proceeds to education.

  • The problem is not money, it’s the failure of the DOE and its unionized bureaucrats. Hawaii spends well above the national average per student, but drastically under delivers on student performance. Fix that before you make a lunge for more tax money.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up